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Dallas Clark finds right opportunity with the Ravens

FootballBaltimore RavensJoe FlaccoIndianapolis ColtsDallas ClarkDennis Pitta

Dallas Clark was busy taking care of his two young boys at home in Iowa last week. He was staying in shape just in case the right phone call came.

There were no practices to be at, no meetings to attend but nothing seemed particularly amiss until the 34-year-old looked down at his watch and realized how much his life has changed.

"You … see August on there and you're just like, 'Wow.' I haven't seen that date and been around the family environment ever," Clark said Tuesday. "It was different but I enjoyed the changes. But when you start thinking about football, you start to get excited and you want to be in that environment. As players, you don't get to make those decisions. You can just sit around and hope that one of the 32 general managers want you and need you and [they] make a phone call. I'm just very fortunate that Baltimore made that call."

Clark, who has played tight end in the NFL for 10 seasons, finalized his one-year deal with the Ravens on Tuesday and was out on the practice field for the first time later in the afternoon. Despite his familiarity with Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell from their days in Indianapolis, Clark admitted that he had no idea what he was doing most of the time.

But that didn't stop him from connecting with quarterback Joe Flacco for touchdowns on the first and third play of a red-zone drill, and making a nifty one-handed touchdown catch later that brought to mind a similar grab he made against the Ravens in the corner of the end zone at M&T Bank Stadium during the 2009 season.

He did drop a pass later in practice, but that's not what his teammates were talking about afterward.

"You saw that one-handed catch over there with no gloves on?," safety Michael Huff asked. "That's the biggest thing. How does he catch with no gloves on? I couldn't do it. Somehow, someway he does it."

The one-handed catch elicited some ooh's and aah's from Clark's new teammates and prompted cornerback Lardarius Webb to say to Flacco, "Oh yeah Joe, we got you another target."

It's unlikely that Clark will play much — if at all — in Thursday's preseason home game against the Atlanta Falcons. While he said there are a few similarities to the offense that the Ravens run and what Caldwell oversaw in Indianapolis, he has a lot to learn about the Ravens' schemes.

Still, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was pleased by what he saw from both Clark and his former Colts teammate Brandon Stokley who were signed the past couple of days to give Flacco more veteran options, particularly in the middle of the field.

"Both those guys looked good," Harbaugh said. "They showed the skill set you've seen from those guys over the years. They did a nice job. … They are not afraid to compete and work hard. They want to have a chance to win. I think the fact that Joe's here, that interests them a lot."

After playing for the Colts for nine productive seasons, including his Pro Bowl 2009 campaign when he caught 100 passes for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns, Clark spent last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had 47 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns while playing in all 16 regular-season games but he admitted that he didn't think he "fit in the best with what [the Buccaneers] do."

"That was a big change and adjustment for me mentally and physically," Clark said. "Just being here for a couple of days, when I look at the plays and see what they do, this makes sense. I've done what the plays are and I know what to do. That's comforting."

Clark said that he garnered interest from a few teams and even ruled a couple of opportunities out. He said his top consideration was finding a team with a solid quarterback situation but what the Ravens have is "better than that."

"He is a gamer and just a great leader and he can flat-out play the game," Clark said of Flacco.

When training camp began, the Ravens didn't look like a potential fit. However, starting tight end Dennis Pitta went down with a potentially season-ending hip dislocation on the third full-squad practice of training camp. About a week later, Ed Dickson suffered a partially torn hamstring in practice, calling into question whether he'll be ready for the Sept. 5 regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos.

Down to Visanthe Shiancoe, a 33-year-old veteran who was signed after Pitta went down, veteran Billy Bajema, Alex Silvestro and undrafted rookie Matt Furstenburg (Maryland), the Ravens couldn't resist adding a veteran pass-catching tight end with 474 career catches and a penchant for making plays on third down and in the red zone.

"It was kind of an obvious, fortunate decision," said Clark who chose to wear No.87 in honor of his former Colts' teammate, wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Clark has worn No.44 throughout his career but that number is taken by veteran fullback Vonta Leach.

"It was one of those that the best-case happened, hopefully on both ends but certainly on my end. I was very ecstatic that Baltimore was one of the teams that called. I had the luxury to kind of be picky and I was. There were a few other teams early on that we chose not to play for. I wanted to be in the right situation where I feel like with my skill set, I can help. And I think this is the place that obviously wants to win, has proven they can win and I just want to be a small piece of helping them continue to do that."

Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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FootballBaltimore RavensJoe FlaccoIndianapolis ColtsDallas ClarkDennis Pitta
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