"I should be up there with the best... catch 80 passes."
"Did Ricky Williams Show Any Signs of Drug Addiction in Miami?"
Mitchell Blatt: "Last season, you were invited to the Pro Bowl, then two days later, you learned that there had been a mistake. How did that feel?"
Desmond Clark: "It wasn't as big of a deal as people may have thought it had been, because it was nice to be invited, but when I had been invited, it was like I almost didn't earn it. When they called back and said that I wasn't invited, I already had plans anyway for a vacation with my family, so I had to switch my plans back to vacation, which wasn't a big deal. I was looking forward to going on a vacation with my family, but going to the Pro Bowl would have been nice also. I want to get it where I receive the votes from the fans and my peers and also the coaches and I would want to get there that way and not get in through the backdoor." (Clark was mistakenly told that he had been added as a "need player" and not voted in, which is why he mentions that he doesn't want to "get in through the backdoor.")
MB: "One of the few things your defense had trouble with was Steve Smith. He had 218 yards [and 2 touchdowns] in the playoff game and 159 yards the first time he played you. He just had it with your defense. What was going on there?"
DC: "I don't play defense. I can't really answer that. He just had a wonderful game. I'm not sure what the problem was. I know we had a couple of defensive breakdowns. In the first game, he had 14 catches, but he didn't have any long catches. He didn't have any touchdowns, so I believe we may have had some breakdowns, but I can't really talk on that. I don't know the defensive concepts and what they're looking for out there."
MB: "That playoff game was such a back-and-forth game, basically decided by one possession. What was it like playing that game?" (Carolina won 29-21.)
DC: "That was my second time being in the playoffs. It was another chance for me, and I never played as a division champion. It was a great experience, and we were playing at home, so it was my first time playing a playoff game at home. It was exciting. We got down early [Carolina scored the first 13 points and lead 16-7 at halftime.], but we came back, and we kept fighting. In the end, we had a chance to tie the game and ultimately win it, but it just didn't work out." (Rex Grossman threw an interception on their final drive down the field to end any comeback chances.)
MB: "If you did win that game, do you think you could have beaten Seattle?"
DC: "I think at any given time, we could have beat any team in the league. Definitely, if we would have gotten past Carolina, we would have given Seattle all they wanted and more, but we didn't get past Carolina, so it's neither here nor there whether we could have beaten Seattle, but we had the players and the personnel to get all the way to the Super Bowl."
MB: "How did it feel to catch the touchdown pass in the game?"
DC: "That was my first touchdown catch in the postseason and it came at a big moment, which was the biggest thing, because we were trying to find our way back into the game. [Clark scored with 11:21 left in the third to cut Carolina's lead to 16-14.] Whenever you can catch a big pass like that in a crucial situation, you can't help to be excited, because it gets your team back in the game."
MB: "After signing with Chicago in 2003, you predicted 80 catches but ended up with 44. Could you describe the reason for the discrepancy?"
DC: "Well, I don't think I predicted 80 catches. I said if the top tight end was catching 80 passes, that's where I felt I should be at. I don't feel any different today. I feel like wherever the top tight end is at, I should be able to put up those type of numbers. The offensive scheme that we were playing in wasn't for the tight end to catch 80 passes, but catching 44 passes that year is nothing to be ashamed of. And, hey, if I'm thrown the ball that many times and that's the scheme that the offensive coordinator wants to run, I could catch 80 passes. I'm not saying that that's what I predict, but I have the talent to do that, but I got to do what the team wants me to do. It's not up to me how many times I get the ball thrown to me."
MB: "Well, do you think you should get the ball thrown to you more?"
DC: "Well, anytime somebody looks at the offensive side of the ball and asks if I'm a playmaker, I'm going to say yes. I would like the ball to come to me more, but I'm not a selfish player. I'm going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do. If I'm not getting the ball, that doesn't mean I'm not going to block, because I know that offensive scheme, and that offensive scheme is not for the tight end to get the ball six or seven times a game. So, when the ball does come, I'm going to make the plays that I need to make."
MB: "When your contract expires in 2008, will you maybe be looking to sign with a team that passes to the tight end more?"
DC: "At that point, I'll be 32, so I don't know. I haven't thought that far down the road. I'm just trying to play this contract out and see what happens. I haven't even thought about what happens after I finish my six years here in Chicago. I'm just thinking about this year. I'm trying to get into great shape for this year, and if I do make it that long, and that time comes, I'll think about it then."
MB: "Before the NFL Draft, almost everyone was predicting the Bears to draft a tight end, and even you said you thought they would draft a tight end, but they didn't draft one. Any thoughts on why not?"
DC: "Because they were comfortable with what I was doing. Most of that stuff was media-related. None of that stuff came from the Chicago Bears organization. Every bit of that was media driven about how Chicago needed a tight end, blah, blah, blah. Not once did Coach say that or the general manager come out and say, 'We need a different tight end.' Now, they did come out and say that we're going to try to upgrade at every position, which they do that with every position. And, it's no secret that they were trying to upgrade, and they do want a tight end, because they're trying to upgrade and look to the future."
MB: "But, was that in your mind before the draft? Did you believe the rumors?"
DC: "No. They weren't coming from the coaches and the front office. Like I said, I wouldn't be surprised if they did draft a tight end. You know, you've got so many draft picks, why not draft a tight end if you've got somebody that you like? That's at any position. So if they would have drafted a tight end, so be it. How many teams drafted a tight end this year that didn't need a tight end; they just drafted a tight end because he was the best available athlete at the time. So, I wasn't really worried about if they drafted a tight end or not."
MB: "Looking around the NFC North, in Detroit, they've got a new coach, two new quarterbacks and a rebuilding process underway. Do you think they're a team to watch out for in the future?"
DC: "I don't know, man. I haven't been keeping up with what they've been doing over there. Really, I don't even look at football outside of my team when it's not during the season unless it's something big, so I don't know what they got going on in Detroit. Hopefully, we're the team to look out for in the future, because we've got a young team, but as far as Detroit is, I don't know."
MB: "Do you seriously not keep up with the league that much? I'm just wondering."
DC: "Seriously, I don't. I'm a family guy. In the offseason, I'm not thinking about the NFL and things like that. Like right, now, because I'm up here [in Chicago] working out, the only thing I worry about is what's going on with the Chicago Bears. I don't come home and watch TV and keep up with what's going on. I'm going home, and I'm with my family, and I'm reading or trying to get things accomplished. Really, I don't pay attention to what's going on around the league unless it's some kind of big story that you can't ignore, for instance, T.O. going down to Dallas. Nobody could ignore that. "
MB: "What about the Ricky Williams suspension? Did you know about that?"
DC: "Yeah, see, those kind of things, you have to know about."
MB: "Now, you played with Ricky in Miami. Could you tell at that time that he might have any kind of tendencies that would suggest that something like this might happen?"
DC: "Are you serious, man? Are you serious? You can't be serious to ask that type of question. I don't know what that guy does in is own time. It's not like I hung out with him. Like I said, I'm a family guy. Practice ends at 1:30, and I'm home by 2 o'clock."