Friday night's "The Heavyweights" radio show on WIBC featured Colts tight end Dallas Clark, who will be the Grand Marshall of this weekend's Brickyard 400 race. Dallas was asked a few questions about getting ready for training camp in one week, and he provided an interesting answer to one of them:
I tell you what, this has been my best off-season, I think, as a Colt.
Clark is, arguably, the best tight end in football. While other tight ends like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates would pad receiving stats because, for most of their careers, the wideouts on their respective teams stunk, Clark has had to share the football with players named Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley, and Edgerrin James. Last season, with Marvin gone and Anthony Gonzalez injured in Week One, Clark got a chance to show the league what all of us have known for years: That he is a 100-catch caliber tight end.
Speaking of Gonzo, Clark made it a point in the interview to bring up the former-first round pick in 2007 from Ohio State.
Anthony Gonzalez and I have, well, we kind of have been partnered together to, uh, we always kind of met at the weight room at the same time and gotten the same groups and just challenged each other out in the runs. And, I tell you what, we've been pushing each other, and its just been a lot of fun. We've been getting a lot stronger, getting a lot faster. Body's feeling great. It's just been a great off-season.
This is just me speculating, but perhaps one of the reasons Gonzo has seemed healthy this off-season is because of Clark's involvement in off-season training. Both guys have similar mindsets. They work hard. They play the game smart. They know what to do with a football when it's delivered into their hands. It's not all that much of a surprise that both these guys are working together to make each other better. Hopefully, the payoff is that we get a completely healthy Gonzo for 2010. Regardless of whether he is the 4th wideout on the depth chart or not, a healthy Gonzo helps the team.
But it isn't just Gonzo and Dallas who have been working out like madmen. The whole team seems have a fire lit under them, and there is a very specific reason why:
I think everyone has been pushing themselves. When you lose that game, you know, the worst game you could possibly lose is the Super Bowl. It kind of gives you a little fire. And, you just want to come back this year, and this year can't get here fast enough to try to improve on what we didn't finish last year.
I cannot stress enough the importance of embracing this mindset. I absolutely do not buy this "past is prologue" nonsense that Bill Polian often serves up to the media when he refuses to discuss the Super Bowl loss. One should not "move on" after a loss like that. I firmly believe that bad loses build great teams. They serve as motivating forces the following year. They make players, the good ones, feel as though there is an itch that needs scratching. That feeling of walking off the field after the biggest game of the season, confetti falling everywhere, and knowing you LOST should make each and every player feel like absolute crap. That feeling should then provide fuel to do what no team has done since 1973:
Get back to the Super Bowl the year after losing it, and win the game.
It's nice to see players like Dallas Clark seemingly embracing this mindset. Don't "get over" the loss. Use it to propel you to the next challenge. The last team to win a Super Bowl after losing one the previous year was the legendary 1972 Miami Dolphins. The Phins went undefeated in '72 following their humiliating loss in Super Bowl VII to the Dallas Cowboys. The Phins won two straight Super Bowls after collapsing that game at (of all places) Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, LA.
Another interesting side note: The Cowboys, who defeated the '71 Dolphins 24-3 in Super Bowl VII, had lost the Super Bowl the previous year to the Baltimore Colts.
In both cases, I don't think the Dolphins or the Cowboys simply "got over" their Super Bowl loses. They used those heartbreaking defeats as fuel to propel their teams to greatness. I'm happy to hear Dallas Clark saying that the loss is fueling a fire in the team. It gives me hope.
Also during the interview, Dallas talked about new rookie tight end Brody Eldridge, who was drafted more as an in-line blocking H-Back:
He's a good tight end. He's gonna help us out a lot. I really like him. I love his attitude. I love the way he approaches the game. And I think he's just going to fit right in.
Dallas also chatted about his deceptive speed, and how running crisp routes is likely the reason he gets such great seperation from linebackers, safeties, and even some corners in this league. He joked:
I don't look like [Pierre Garcon] out there, blazin' by corners.
Dallas also made it a point to talk about Reggie Wayne, which seemed timely considering we aren't 100% certain he will show up for training camp:
There's not a better guy, a better receiver, that just comes to work everyday and just improves, improves, improves.
Reggie is indeed a very hard worker. No one should ever question his desire to excel at this game. The real question is whether he will allow his unrealistic contract demands to become a distraction by holding out from camp. I don't think such a thing will happen. I suspect he will be there on time with another Reggie Wayne training camp entrance.
Camp starts in just one week. I seriously can. not. wait!