Chicago Bears tight end Desmond Clark was kind enough to spend a few minutes with Bear Goggles On for this exclusive interview.
I’m hesitant before interviews because athlete’s public image sometimes doesn’t match up to who they really are. This isn’t one of those cases at all; he’s down-to-Earth and just a really nice guy.
Here are the highlights:
Talking about fired TE Coach Rob Boras:
I’ve spoken to him a couple times since he left. He’s taken it hard. He’s from Illinois, so that was his dream job.
Talking about Lovie’s personality as coach:
Don’t give me that crap about his personality, because he was a good coach with that personality in ’05 and ’06, so you can’t say that he’s not a good coach now. He’s the same man with the same personality. If you want to talk about X’s and O’s, OK, then I’ll listen. But if you’re going to talk about personality, I’m going to tune you out, because it makes no sense. With that same personality, he took us to a Super Bowl. It has no weight when people bring up that argument.
When talking about Jay Cutler and his leadership:
Once Jay is able to lead us to that playoff victory and to the Super Bowl, that’ll set the record straight. Like I always say, when you’re not winning, everyone wants to pick everything apart. “Lovie’s not a good coach because he doesn’t get emotional. Jay’s a whiner because he’s emotional.” You know what I’m saying? Jay’s emotional and that’s not good. Lovie’s not emotional and that’s not good. It doesn’t make sense….how do you want it?
Check out the full transcript after the jump:
GT: Dez, you’ve been such a great professional during your career with the Bears, and it’s been a pleasure to watch you play. Who in the Bears organization has been the most influential to your success here? And, do you see any future NFL head coaches within the organization?
DC: I would say that my tight ends coach has been most influential to the success that I’ve seen with the Chicago Bears because coming in, I think I was viewed as a one-dimensional tight end and working with him for six year, I became a complete tight end under his tutelage.
GT: TE coach Rob Boras was released by the Bears and you weren’t happy about it. Many NFL insiders respect Rob Boras and is viewed as a bright young coach. What did he specifically do that got the most out of you?
DC: It’s just the detail that he puts into his work. And it’s funny, because I’ve never seen a man get angry about such little things as spelling on notes and small stuff like that. He always wanted to be perfect, and that’s what he demanded out of us, that we prepare with excellence and we play with excellence.
Over the years, I think we both learned each other and learned how to get the most out of each other and he knew all he needed to do was challenge me with something to get the most out of me. At times that he thought we weren’t motivated, he would challenge me. He’d bring up a play, like with Jared Allen. He pushed me back over a couple years ago. He’d play that and he knew that’d get me going. He knew how to motivate me. And the detail that he puts into his work…..I can honestly say that I never went into a game without being prepared to play that game mentally.
GT: It seems like you have great respect for Boras. Have you spoken to Boras since he left? Do you have an off the field relationship with him?
DC: I have, I’ve spoken to him a couple times since he left. He’s taken it hard. He’s from Illinois, so that was his dream job.
GT: Have you had any contact with the Bears about his firing?
DC: No, I haven’t had any contact. I’ll wait. They have a lot of things that they’re doing right now, in terms of getting the offensive staff, the coaching staff back together. I’ll let them get back together first. When the time’s right, I’ll sit down with Lovie and Jerry or just Jerry and just see what they thought, what they were thinking. Regardless of the answer, I gotta play for whatever coach they bring in.
GT: Who would you like to see come in as OC? Obviously, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be willing to work with whoever comes in, but given your preference, who would be your choice?
DC: No, not really. Just the people that they’ve speculated….Martz, Bates, Weis. Weis is in Kansas City and Bates is going to Seattle. I don’t know. At this point, I don’t care who they bring in because it doesn’t really matter. I don’t have that type of input.
GT: Let’s set the record straight in terms of Lovie Smith, whom many fans believe to be emotionless. Is Lovie usually even-keeled or does he get emotional in the locker room?
DC: When you say emotional, what do you mean? Yelling and screaming?
DC: It is what it is. Everybody thought he was a good coach in ’05 and ’06 when we made the playoffs, and all of a sudden they say he’s not a good coach. And I can understand if they say he’s not a good coach because of something that had to do with coaching. Don’t give me that crap about his personality, because he was a good coach with that personality in ’05 and ’06, so you can’t say that he’s not a good coach now. He’s the same man with the same personality. If you want to talk about X’s and O’s, OK, then I’ll listen. But if you’re going to talk about personality, I’m going to tune you out, because it makes no sense. With that same personality, he took us to a Super Bowl. It has no weight when people bring up that argument.
GT: From all accounts, most if not all Bears players love playing for Lovie Smith. Since we’re not in the locker rooms or meetings, could you explain why most of the players are fiercely loyal to him? As a coach, what does he do that makes you want to go out and give 110%?
DC: I’d say he treats us like men. And as men, that’s what you want. You don’t want a guy like some of these coaches you hear about that do stupid stuff and you have no freedom. You want to play for that [Lovie]. You want to play hard because he’s a guy that’ll hold you accountable for whatever you do. He’s not going to run around yelling and screaming and doing that type of stuff. And not everybody can handle that.
Some people need someone looking over them and making sure they’re doing this and doing that because they can’t handle that. But for the most part, 95% of the guys in that locker room can handle that. They know how to go out and work without him [Lovie] peeking over their shoulder or breathing down their necks. It definitely works for me and speaking from my own point of view, I can respect that and I can definitely play hard for that.
GT: You had a terrific game against the Vikings, and it seemed like the offensive gameplan for the last two weeks was completely different than the rest of the season. Do you attribute the offensive success for the last two weeks to the gameplan or execution?
DC: Definitely the execution of the gameplan. There wasn’t anything dramatically different. All during the year, Ron Turner told us that we had to execute. And that’s what we did. We didn’t kill ourselves with turnovers or penalties and not scoring in the red zone. It wasn’t much different than the rest of the year.
GT: You had a lingering neck injury this year, which took you out of some games and obviously affected your production. How’s your neck doing?
DC: My neck is fine.
GT: Many in the media and even Bears fans have already labeled Jay Cutler as a petulant whiner. What have you seen from Jay as a teammate and a leader?
DC: Once Jay is able to lead us to that playoff victory and to the Super Bowl, that’ll set the record straight. Like I always say, when you’re not winning, everyone wants to pick everything apart. “Lovie’s not a good coach because he doesn’t get emotional. Jay’s a whiner because he’s emotional.” You know what I’m saying? Jay’s emotional and that’s not good. Lovie’s not emotional and that’s not good. It doesn’t make sense….how do you want it?
When the season’s not going well, everyone wants to nitpick at things, and winning cures all that. And next year when we start winning some games and get back to the playoffs, the same type of attitude that Jay displayed this year will be looked at as a positive. A fiery guy, a guy who can get his troops going, he lets people know how he feels. That’s what a quarterback SHOULD be. That’ll be the talk then instead of all the negative talk now.
GT: You’ve had a long NFL career, especially considering that many players are in the league less than two years. What do you attribute to your longevity and success in the NFL?
DC: I’ve just been blessed, for one. Coming into this league, I never knew “Ok, eleven years from now, I’ll still be in the league.” I didn’t know that. I knew that I was a long shot to make my first NFL team, and just continuing to drive and always think that I’m never satisfied with where I’m at. I’m never comfortable with where I’m at. I’m always working to improve my game. That’s just my mindset….as soon as you get comfortable, they’re going to replace you.
GT: Do you anticipate being back with the Bears in 2010?
DC: Yeah, I don’t see a reason why I wouldn’t be back. I definitely look forward to being back with the Bears in 2010. I still have one year on my contract, and I believe that my play showed and warranted me coming back.
GT: What would you like to be done to improve the team in 2010? Is there any area of weakness that you see?
DC: That’s not my call, so there’s no real need to even talk about it. They’re not going to come to me and ask me what I think, so I’m gonna roll with whatever. Whatever they think and whoever they bring in and whatever changes they make….I’m a soldier in the war, not one of the generals.
GT: Who wins in a footrace? You, Greg Olsen or Kellen Davis?
DC: Oh, Greg..I’m last in that footrace. Greg is by far the fastest tight end. And Kellen has speed that people don’t even know about. He ran a sub-4.5 40 at his pro day. I haven’t ever run a 4.5. And Greg, I think, ran a 4.52 at the combine, so we have two speedy tight ends.
GT: Unfortunately, the Bears didn’t make the playoffs and it’s the offseason for you. What have you been up to and what’s your plan for the rest of the offseason?
DC: Well, just relaxing. It’s the first week off, but I have a lot of other stuff that I do. I have my nonprofit foundation, my lawn company that I run, and you know, my family….my wife and my kids. I try to spend as much time at home as possible right now because during the season, it’s work-home-sleep on a daily basis.
GT: Did you ever decide on a name for your lawn care business?
DC: I did. I didn’t get very good feedback when I posted that on my blog. It was all football related. Actually, just last week I registered it as Clark Landscaping and Maintenance.
GT: You’re a very accessible football player. Many athletes don’t have a blog or an email address where they can communicate directly with fans. What drives you to be so open with your fanbase?
DC: Well, when you think about it, I’m not going to be in football forever. I have a lot of other things that I do outside of football. I also have my own sports talk show on the Internet and I’d like to be a radio talk show host after football. I just look at is as networking: If I was Joe Blow on the street and I gave my phone number over Twitter, who would call? Now that I have a fanbase, I’m happy to give my phone number and make myself accessible to them, so when I’m not playing football I still have a fanbase who probably still cares about what I’m doing. As I’m networking with them now, I can generate more interest from that fanbase for doing so. Hey, I don’t mind. I’m a regular person just like anyone else.
GT: As a young man, what lessons did you learn by participating in sports?
DC: Really, it just taught me the work ethic. It taught me how to be unselfish, how to work on a team with somebody. You know, how to lean on somebody and also have someone lean on you. You have to be accountable for yourself. That’s probably the biggest lessons that I’ve learned: being accountable, hard working, having the drive and will to be good.
GT: I read that you’re trying to get 50,000 people to donate $20 each in order to fulfill your Million Dollar March Program, part of your 88 Wayz Foundation. What will the MDMP accomplish and how close are you to reaching your goal?
DC: Well, first, I’m a long ways away. I just started it at the end of December, and I just started pushing it. What I’m trying to do is this: I have a mentor/leadership program that I go into the school system in my hometown of Lakeland, Florida and I mentor, right now, about 60 kids. But over the next three years, it will be around 300 kids.
And what I’m trying to do is instill in them the right kind of attitude, the right kind of moral character, help them where needed in terms of getting them to the next level…just bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood because there’s so much negative out there. They need a positive influence out there, so in a nutshell, I’m trying to influence the kids positively and get them outside of the community and let them see that it’s a big world out there and it’s more than what you see just from neighborhood to neighborhood.
GT: If people want to help out, where should they go?
DC: They can go to www.88wayzmdm.com.
GT: Besides being an NFL player and being heavily involved in your foundation, you also have your own record label. Give us a couple of your favorite rappers.
DC: I’m kind of getting out of the rap circle, I guess, because a lot of the stuff that’s going on within rap is not what I stand for. So listening to Jay-Z, listening to T.I., those guys are not saying the stuff that I can identify with or bop my head to and feel good about it when I’m riding in the car with about-to-be seven-year-old twins.
Let me just say that I’m thrilled I had the opportunity to interview Dez. He was really gracious with his time and is an absolute class act. I’m happy that he’s a Bear, and I hope he’s in a Bears uniform as long as he wants to play the game. Thanks for your time, Dez!
As I alluded to in the interview, Dez is very accessible. Here’s how you can interact with the veteran Bears tight end:
– Twitter (@tightwork88)
– Email ([email protected])
– Blog (http://2009bears.blogspot.com)
– 88 Wayz Foundation (http://www.88wayz.com/index.html)
– “Sportsmanlike Conduct” show page: http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vshow.aspx?sid=1520
– Listen to his show: http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vchannel.aspx?cid=249