CEDAR RAPIDS — Last week, Dallas Clark rode RAGBRAI. Monday, he played golf in the Zach Johnson Foundation Classic at Elmcrest Country Club.
Those are things he wanted to do, longed to do. Just not yet.
At the moment, Clark is a man without a football team. The former Iowa All-America tight end is hoping to get an 11th NFL season. That will require a phone call from someone.
“I’m not done with football,” Clark said Monday. Or rather, “It’s not my choice if I’m done with football. I’m just waiting to see if someone calls and it’s the right situation, and then go from there.”
Clark is 34, which is getting up there for a tight end. Especially one who missed a total of 15 games to injuries over the 2010 and 2011 season. But he wasn’t invisible last year, playing in all 16 games and making 47 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns in his one and only season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after nine seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
When the New England Patriots suddenly had a tight end shortage after Aaron Hernandez’s incarceration and Rob Gronkowski’s back surgery, more than a few Patriots fans suggested that Bill Belichick bring in Clark, who tormented them several times when he was a Colt.
So we’ll see. Injuries pile up in the NFL, even before the first week of preseason games.
“I think I’m healthy, yeah,” Clark said. “I don’t know how you’re supposed to feel at 34 with or without football. But I feel really good.
“But it’s not my decision. We’ll see if someone else thinks that, too.”
It’s the first time Clark hasn’t gone to a summer training camp since he was a boy in his Livermore, Iowa, hometown.
“Some days, I don’t even think about it,” he said. “Some days I think about my buddies that are at camp right now, working to get better, working to play in a championship game.
“It is weird. Sitting at home moping about it would be hard to handle. Going out and enjoying this time I haven’t been able to enjoy since ’98, it’s a rarity.”
So Clark did RAGBRAI last week. Four hundred miles-plus.
“RAGBRAI had been a dream of mine since I was about six years old when it went through my hometown of Livermore and I fell in love with it. I remember all those people going through. I was just amazed how the town just came alive.
“Since then I’ve always wanted to do it. I always said when I was done playing football I would. Fortunately, I’ve been able to play football for a while. But this year I jumped right on board and had a blast.”
Clark and his wife have sons that are 4 and 2. The family will be based in Indianapolis for the coming school year, but “Eventually we’ll work our way back to Iowa. This will be our home state, without a doubt. That’s an absolute. I’m looking forward to it.”
In the meantime, a player who caught 100 passes and was first-team All-NFL four years ago waits to be told he still has a career as a player. Most NFL players don’t leave on their own terms.
The game itself “is very barbaric,” said Clark. And he wants a little more of it.