The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts had one of the biggest non-traditional rivalries over the past decade. The two teams were dominant during their regular seasons each and every year. Beyond that, there were continual comparisons between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as to which was the best quarterback.
One of the key members of the Colts over that period was tight end Dallas Clark. Clark was drafted by the Colts in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft and played there until last season. The 2009 all-pro was a part of two AFC championship teams and was on the winning side of Super Bowl XLI.
With the departure of Manning from Indianapolis this offseason, the Colts have decided to rebuild brining in a new quarterback and two new tight ends during this year’s draft. Those decisions meant that Clark would have to find a new home for the first time in 2012. While the star tight end ultimately chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he had nothing but glowing things to say about his former rivals after his visit with the Patriots.
Receiving compliments from a player visiting is a testament to the organization but to receive compliments from a rival with whom you’ve battled with for years is even more special. So when Clark calls the Patriots “a class act organization“ and called it “a special place” that means a lot.
And just because Clark decided to head south instead of joining the class act organization doesn’t make his comments any less meaningful. The Patriots have two star tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and have already signed a third tight end in Daniel Fells. With a much deeper wide receiving group for 2012, it’s hard to see exactly where Clark would have fit in. Meanwhile in Tampa, Clark will have a starring role.
After “spygate” broke in 2007, many disparaging things were said about the New England Patriots. An organization that was only referred to as classy was now seen by many as falling from grace. But what Clark’s opinion of the organization shows is that despite clashes with rivals, the Patriots do get a great deal of respect by many in the NFL today. That is as long as they’re not with the New York Jets.