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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Plagued by recent injuries, Dallas Clark off to strong start for Bucs

1

August

dallasclark.jpgIt’s early, and the Bucs haven’t played so much as an exhibition game – much less a regular-season one.

But nothing seen to date suggests the player effortlessly streaking across the middle of the field, or the one making athletic catches look easy is the same guy who some predicted might never play again.

If you were among those who bet against Bucs tight end Dallas Clark, what he’s displayed so far in training camp strongly indicates he does indeed have something left in his tank.

“I think a lot of people had those negative thoughts about me that were going around,” Clark said this week. “But that’s the game. You can’t listen to things that aren’t always true. That’s why I’m grateful the Bucs took a chance and believed in me. I’m going to do everything I can prove them right. It’s exciting and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

Severely limited by injuries with the Colts during the past two seasons -- he missed 15 of his past 32 games -- the current rebuilding effort in Indianapolis left Clark on the outside looking in. With seemingly little interest in his services, the Bucs snatched him up on a 1-year, $2.7 million deal in May after trading disgruntled tight end Kellen Winslow to Seattle.

Tampa Bay did its due diligence on Clark’s health, but reports that other teams had passed after doing their own research couldn’t be ignored. The Bucs opted for a wait-and-see approach.

They waited. Now they like what they see.

“I think he looks really good,” coach Greg Schiano said. “He’s working his tail off and he’s a true professional. Like anybody else, you keep your fingers crossed until the final game. But I’m very pleased he’s on our team.”

Clark has had some drops early in camp, but he's responded with better performances in recent days, including some fairly athletic plays that made you recall many he's made in the past.

Whatever Clark does on the field will be matched or surpassed by what he does off it. He is here as much for his ability to influence the Bucs' particularly young group of tight ends as his talents between the lines. Clark, who took his cues from playing his previous nine seasons alongside former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, prepares and works like every day is his first.

"Every tight end is going to look up to a guy like that," second-year tight end Luke Stocker said. "There’s just a ton of stuff that you can watch being around him and learning from him. He’s got a wealth of experience."

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 3:48pm]

    

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