Clark on the Lighter Side

The Bears confidence in Desmond Clark is part of the reason why the team decided not to take a tight end in the draft. Ten pounds lighter, the veteran hopes to have more of an impact in the passing game.

In his first year with the Bears, Clark caught 44 balls and looked to be the receiving threat the team had lacked at the position for years. However, the past two seasons he finished with just 24 receptions.

While the drop in production led to speculation general manager Jerry Angelo would add competition for Clark in the off-season, he remains the unquestioned starter as the roster is currently constructed.

"I know the coaches had confidence in me the whole time," Clark said. "From Day One they told me I'm the tight end and if there was somebody out there that they wanted they were going to go get them, but it wasn't a pressing need."

Strength and conditioning coordinator Rusty Jones helped restore the team's faith in Clark. Thanks to a stringent off-season workout regiment, the six-foot-3, 244-pounder is as light as he's been since coming to the NFL.

"Take it from me. The lighter you are, you can move around a lot," said Coach Lovie Smith. "That's definitely the case with Dez. He's in the best shape he's been in."

A similar program designed by Jones helped Brian Urlacher win Defensive Player of the Year.

"I think Rusty is probably the most underrated guy in this building," Clark said.

With a passing offense that ranked 31st last season, the Bears need playmakers to emerge. For the first time in five seasons, Clark will work with the same offensive coordinator.

"The more we grow in the offense, the more we're going to be able to use all the weapons," Ron Turner said.

Turner made use of the tight end during his first stint with the team and has plans on upping the production from the position.

"Obviously we're going to ask him to block, too, he's got to do that," Turner said. "But we need to get more production. To score more points, we have to get more production out of that position in the passing game. I think we can get it from what we have here."

The production will likely have to come from Clark, as the four other tight ends on the roster have 15 career NFL receptions.

The work Clark has done over the past few months will better prepare him to succeed, but he still has to put up the numbers.

"Hopefully I'll be a different tight end this year," Clark said. "Hopefully I'll get the rock a little bit more. But it's the same (offense). I know where I've been at so it's just a comfort zone there. But hopefully I'm a different tight end, stretching the field a little bit more than I did last year."

The offense would benefit from having Clark become a threat opponents have to respect.


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