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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Dallas Clark says injuries are behind him

Clark's career

New Bucs tight end Dallas Clark's season-by-season stats:

Year G GS Rec Yds Y/R TD
2003 10 10 29 340 11.7 1
2004 15 13 25 423 16.9 5
2005 15 14 37 488 13.2 4
2006 12 12 30 367 12.2 4
2007 15 15 58 616 10.6 11
2008 15 15 77 848 11.0 6
2009 16 16 100 1106 11.1 10
2010 6 6 37 347 9.4 3
2011 11 10 34 352 10.4 2
Career 115 111 427 4887 11.4 46

TAMPA — Fans aren't the only ones who have serious questions about Dallas Clark's ability to stay healthy and contribute to the Bucs in 2012.

After Clark missed 15 of a possible 32 games in the past two seasons, coach Greg Schiano and his staff naturally wondered the same thing.

"You do your homework and you do your physicals," Schiano said. "Our trainers and doctors met with him and we feel good. There's no guarantees in anything, but we felt like it was the best thing for the Bucs."

And, so, after resolving that issue to their satisfaction, the Bucs made the former Colts All-Pro tight end an offer, signing him Monday to a one-year, $2.7 million deal and trading their former big-play tight end, Kellen Winslow, to the Seahawks.

Clark, who practiced with the team Monday and Tuesday as the Bucs continued offseason workouts, takes great umbrage to frequent suggestions in the past few months that he'll be unable to overcome his recent rash of injuries. Some published reports since his release from the Colts this year implied Clark's career might be over.

"Details matter, because when (reporters) don't have details, you make things up like I'm done playing," he said. "No one asked me if I was done playing, and I'm not done playing. I don't know where that came from. Just because I wasn't part of a team doesn't mean I'm done playing."

Clark turns 33 next month and has battled a number of injuries in the past two seasons. In 2010 and 2011, Clark produced his worst numbers since his rookie year in 2003. He caught 34 passes for 352 yards last season, well off his numbers from his best seasons.

But Clark said the litany of injuries — "the wrist, the pinched nerve, the broken leg" — is behind him. He doesn't think he's that far removed from the kind of success he had in 2009, when he had a career year with 100 receptions.

"Injuries are part of the game and I've had a couple down years with injury, but it is what it is," Clark said. "I'm not hampered by it. It's not slowing me down. I still feel I can come out and perform every day."

The Bucs certainly hope so, because swapping Winslow for Clark is, from a pure football standpoint, a gamble. Winslow remained extremely productive, averaging 73 catches during the past three seasons and never missing a game despite his well-documented knee troubles and history of surgeries.

On Tuesday, Schiano adamantly declined to discuss Winslow or the decision to trade him.

"When we do make decisions to do things, I'm going to hesitate to look back," he said. He later added, "We're going to talk about the guys who are Bucs now. As of (Monday) night, Kellen's no longer a Buc."

Luke Stocker, the team's 2011 fourth-round pick who played behind Winslow last season, recalled Winslow fondly.

"As a competitor, he's one of the most competitive people I've ever been around and he's a guy that would come in every Sunday and go to work," Stocker said. "The time I had to be around him was a great experience. He tried to teach me everything he could."

But the Bucs are confident Clark can do the same and, perhaps, more. Having spent most of his career playing alongside former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Clark knows a thing or two about leadership.

"I think it's really good to have a strong veteran presence in that tight end (meeting) room," Schiano said.

Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who played with Clark in Indianapolis, said, "He's played in a lot of big, big games. For a young team, that's going to be good to have around. I think the biggest thing guys will be able to get from him is watching him work every day and do his job and go about business the right way. You don't play nine years in this league and have the success that he has by not working at your craft and getting it right."

Staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Dallas Clark says injuries are behind him 05/22/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 9:44pm]
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