Clark's versatility will test Ravens


Published: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — Dallas Clark describes himself as just another cog in the Indianapolis Colts' offense, no more important than anyone else.

Statistics say otherwise.

With the versatile tight end in the lineup, the Colts are 12-1 and average 28 points per game. Without him, they are 1-3 and score 23 points a contest.

Clark bounced back from a knee injury to lead the Colts with nine catches for 103 yards in last week's playoff win over Kansas City. He says he's ready for the Colts' next test Saturday at Baltimore.

"I feel great," he said. "I feel even better this week. It's the playoffs. You just naturally get that feeling that you can do this for as many weeks as you want."

Clark sprained the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Nov. 26 against Philadelphia and missed four games. He returned against Miami in the regular-season finale to make four catches for 56 yards before his breakout performance in the playoff opener.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning acknowledges that Clark makes his job easier.

"It's great to have Dallas back," Manning said. "You like to have some of your best players out there. It's a real credit to Dallas and his work ethic about wanting to be back here for his teammates. Certainly all of his teammates, and especially me, have appreciated him coming back."

The tight end is giving Ravens coach Brian Billick a lot to consider because Clark has, at times, filled Brandon Stokley's slot receiver position. Stokley was put on injured reserve after hurting his right Achilles' tendon Dec. 10 at Jacksonville.

Billick said it's unusual for a 6-foot-3, 252-pounder to be versatile enough to fill in for the quick Stokley.

"To have a Dallas Clark come in and fill that void was huge for them," Billick said. "And it's very impressive what he's able to do both in the slot position and then in the tight end position, too."

Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said Clark's importance goes beyond catches.

"He can be an inline blocker, point of attack, he can flank out and be an outside receiver," Dungy said. "They have to be aware of the different things he can do."

Baltimore won't be intimidated by Clark or the Colts' top-ranked offense. The Ravens had the league's top-ranked defense in the regular season, largely because of its versatility, in particular outside linebacker Adalius Thomas.

"It's been well-documented that Adalius has played every position defensively that we have," Billick said. "We'll leave Adalius in in three-wides. So our personnel gives us some flexibility as well."

If Clark draws too much attention, the Colts have an array of offensive weapons to hurt the Ravens. Running back Joseph Addai proved a capable receiver with seven catches against Kansas City. Then, of course, there are Pro Bowl wideouts Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. The duo combined for 181 catches, 2,676 yards and 21 touchdowns in the regular season.

Clark doesn't worry about how often he catches the ball. He had 30 receptions for 367 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season. He's ready when the ball comes his way.

"You know Marvin, you know Reggie, they're going to get those catches," he said. "When it comes to the backs and the tight ends, you never know if this is going to be our day. In this position, you just learn to play your game. If you get thrown to a lot, great. If you don't, that's also great as long as you're just doing your job."

Clark said there was a little rust after being out.

"Four weeks, you lose a little bit," he said. "But for the most part, you've just got to go back on the horse and go at it."

STEELERS

Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey will be interviewed for Pittsburgh's coaching job, the fifth coach to meet with the team since Bill Cowher resigned last week.

Team owner Dan Rooney and president Art Rooney II plan to meet with Gailey (University of Florida) on Saturday, and may hold a second round of interviews with the finalists next week. The Steelers also followed that procedure before hiring Cowher from among four finalists in 1992.

The Steelers appeared to be winding down their search after meeting previously with Steelers assistants Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin and Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. They have not asked for permission to interview any other NFL assistant coaches, but decided Thursday to also interview Gailey.

Grimm and Whisenhunt have been considered the favorites since the start of the search.

Whisenhunt, the Steelers' offensive coordinator, also interviewed with the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals and will have a second interview with Arizona this weekend. Grimm also interviewed with the Cardinals.

Gailey was a Steelers assistant under Cowher from 1994-97, spending his final two seasons as the offensive coordinator, before becoming Dallas Cowboys coach. He had an 18-16 record in two seasons there, including a 10-6 regular-season mark and a division championship in 1998.

At Georgia Tech, Gailey has a 37-27 record with four bowl game appearances in as many seasons.

GIANTS

Tim Lewis was fired as New York's defensive coordinator, a move that will give embattled coach Tom Coughlin two new top assistants in a likely make-or-break season.

The move came just a day after management gave the 60-year-old Coughlin a lukewarm one-year contract extension through 2008. His charge: make the Giants more than simply a playoff team.

Neither Lewis, who interviewed for the vacant head coaching job in Miami on Wednesday, nor Coughlin was immediately available for comment.

Kevin Gilbride, who took over the play-calling after offensive coordinator John Hufnagel was relieved on Christmas Day, is the favorite to run the offense next season. There have been reports that Miami defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who worked with Coughlin in Jacksonville, will run the defense if he is not promoted to the top job with the Dolphins.

CARDINALS

Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will get a second interview for Arizona's head coaching job.

Whisenhunt was scheduled to be in Tempe for the session today, joining former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman as the candidates to get a second meeting with Cardinals officials.

Sherman got his second interview on Thursday.

It was not known whether any others would join Whisenhunt and Sherman as finalists to replace Dennis Green, who was fired after three losing seasons.

Whisenhunt and fellow Steelers' assistant Russ Grimm are considered leading candidates to replace Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh. Whisenhunt also interviewed for the coaching jobs with the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins.

The Falcons hired Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, but the Pittsburgh and Miami jobs remain open.

Whisenhunt initially was interviewed by the Cardinals in Tempe last Friday. Grimm, the Steelers' assistant head coach-offensive line, was in town for his interview on Tuesday.

In all, the Cardinals had initial interviews with eight prospective coaches.

The others include Tennessee offensive coordinator Norm Chow, Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, San Diego offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Indianapolis assistant head coach-quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.

Clancy Pendergast, defensive coordinator on Green's staff and still under contract by the Cardinals, also was interviewed but is not believed to be a serious candidate.

Sherman, currently assistant head coach of the Houston Texans, coached the Packers for six seasons. His teams went 53-27 from 2000 through 2004, but he was fired after going 4-12 in 2005.

RAIDERS

Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel interviewed for Oakland's head coaching vacancy.

Fassel, the Raiders' quarterbacks in 1995, met with officials at the team's headquarters to talk about replacing the fired Art Shell.

Earlier in the week, the Raiders interviewed Southern California quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian. Oakland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is expected to interview over the weekend.

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz also could be brought in for a second straight year for an interview, and the team also plans to talk to at least one or two minority candidates.

Fassel was fired in October as offensive coordinator in Baltimore after the Ravens scored just 10 offensive touchdowns in their first six games. Head coach Brian Billick took over the play-calling duties and the Ravens scored 22 offensive touchdowns in their final 10 games to win the AFC North.

Fassel was in his second year as Ravens offensive coordinator after serving a season as a senior consultant to the offense.

From 1997 to 2003, Fassel guided the Giants to two NFC East titles, a conference championship, an appearance in the Super Bowl and a wild-card playoff berth while positing a 58-53-1 record. He was NFL coach of the year in 1997 and lost the 2001 Super Bowl to Baltimore.

The Raiders are hoping to complete this year's search for Shell's replacement in a shorter time frame than the more than five weeks it took to replace Norv Turner a year ago.

Most of the candidates are offensive minded. Most of the NFL's third-ranked defense is set to return next season, putting the focus on rebuilding an offense that was one of the league's worst.

Oakland has the No. 1 pick in April's draft and could use it on quarterbacks Brady Quinn of Notre Dame or JaMarcus Russell of LSU.

PATRIOTS

Two women are suing linebacker Junior Seau, claiming he threw drinks at them in a bar.

The women claim Seau was "obviously intoxicated" when he ruined their clothing by hurling two large glasses of red liquid at them at a downtown San Diego bar May 20.

The suit seeks damages of at least $25,000 for each woman. It also states Seau used "female-specific profanities" to describe the women's bodies.

The women were not named in the complaint filed this week in San Diego Superior Court.

Seau's attorney, Steven Strauss, said Thursday that the suit was without merit.

"It's an attempt to extort money from Junior because of his celebrity," he said. "If there was any merit, these individuals would have come forward sooner, and in their own name."

Seau was the defensive leader of the San Diego Chargers from 1990-2002, then was traded to Miami. After three years with the Dolphins, he announced his retirement from the NFL on Aug. 14. Four days later, he signed with the Patriots.

Seau seriously injured his right arm on Nov. 26 and was placed on injured reserve and will not play when the Patriots visit the Chargers for a divisional-round playoff game Sunday.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top