INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis considers Dallas Clark a Pro Bowl talent, even if the voters disagree.
The small-town Iowa kid doesn't seem to mind.
He already owns a Super Bowl ring, the Colts' single-season records for a tight end, and has the unfettered respect of teammates who know that sometimes Pro Bowl selections are based more on reputation than productivity. Besides, he's getting paid like the best tight end in the NFL.
To Clark, that's enough to suffice.
"It would be cool to go," the six-year veteran said before being bypassed for the Pro Bowl again yesterday. "I've just come to a point where I'm not basing a successful year on that. But it would be a great honor."
Indy's brain trust has made no secret it believes Clark belongs in Hawaii, pointing to a resume most tight ends only dream about.
The AFC's old standbys for the Pro Bowl - Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates - have never even played in a Super Bowl, much less won one. And unlike Clark, who is surrounded by a cast of Pro Bowlers, Gonzalez and Gates have piled up their numbers as the top receiving options on their respective teams.
Clark plays the more traditional role.
He's asked to block, do the dirty work over the middle, and accept that Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez may get more looks from Peyton Manning on a weekly basis.
Yet his combination of good hands, surprising speed and versatility causes chaos for opponents, and has him ranked second among all AFC tight ends in receptions this season.
How valuable is Clark to Indy's offense?
Consider he twice has bettered Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey's single-season franchise records for receptions and yards. On Sunday, Clark also established a single-game record for receptions by a tight end, catching 12 passes for 142 yards and one TD in a 31-21 victory over Detroit.
When opponents play deep, Clark cleans up underneath.
But Sunday's big game came too late to help Clark make his case this year.
"Unfortunately, the voting was done before Sunday's game," said Manning, who earned his ninth Pro Bowl selection in 11 seasons.
Manning, who now needs one more Pro Bowl spot to match the franchise record, will be joined on the AFC's roster by Wayne and defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Manning and Freeney will both start.
Clark's journey has been more treacherous, though.
His rookie season ended prematurely when he broke his right leg in late November after flipping through the air, a harbinger. He's missed 15 of 94 career games with a series of different injuries.
Part of it is the way he throws his body around and the fearlessness he uses over the middle, making him susceptible to highlight-making hits.
It's just part of the job for Clark.
With two games remaining, he's already caught 63 passes for 684 yards, both career highs and already Colts records.
But to Clark, this game is not about numbers or Pro Bowl appearances.
"It's been a solid season, but my No. 1 goal is to stay healthy, and I had that injury and missed a game early," he said. "If you stay healthy, you naturally get a good feel for things during the week. Is it my best season? I don't think so. But it's been solid and we're winning."