But now that work officially has begun toward 2014, Clay wants to forget about last season. In fact, he says that’s a goal for him.
“Despite what you did last year, at some point you have to put that behind you,” Clay said during an appearance on The Finsiders Wednesday. “That doesn’t help you going into next year. When I step out on the field, nobody is going to be concerned about what I did last year. At the same time, put that behind you and I’m a day one student all over again.
“So I have to come out and work like that every day and basically whatever I have to do to help this team win, that’s always my goal, whether it’s catching, whether it’s blocking, whether it’s coaching up younger guys. Whatever I have to do, I’m all for it.”
After being called upon during the preseason to replace injured veteran Dustin Keller in the starting lineup, Clay responded by catching 69 passes, more than double the 34 receptions he had compiled in his first two NFL seasons. The 69 catches also represented the second-highest total for a Dolphins tight end, behind the 73 recorded by Randy McMichael in 2004.
After the season, though, Clay wasn’t thinking about his individual accomplishments, but rather about the disappointing ending for the team. And that’s what had him wanting to get back to work quickly.
“I didn’t take much time off at all,” Clay said. “I kind of got right back into it just to get the taste out of my mouth, working out and hopefully try to do bigger and better things this year.
“You can’t just come and not do anything all offseason and then just show up on April 21 and think that you’ll be able to do great things. I got a chance to work with some other NFL guys who play at an elite level and they tell me, football, it’s a year-round thing, take a little time off, maybe two weeks, but get right back to it.”
It was that kind of mentality that Clay says helped him enjoy such a successful 2013 season.
The 2011 sixth-round pick out of Tulsa had shown flashes in his first two seasons with the Dolphins, but he became a more consistent factor in his third year.
“It was just a mind-set,” Clay said. “There came a point where you’ve got to make a decision. You’re not in college anymore and (you have) to stop treating it like you’re on scholarship, to come in and treat it like a profession on and off the field, whether it’s your diet or the way you study. Talent can only get you so far. That’s one thing I’ve come to realize. What you do off the field affects what happens on the field a lot. A lot went into that, (mainly) just treating it like I wasn’t on scholarship anymore.”
Like the rest of his offensive teammates, Clay will be working for a new coordinator in 2014 after the hiring of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor.
Given the success enjoyed last season by the Eagles offense in general and quarterback Nick Foles in particular, Clay is excited about the possibilities here in Miami.
“I got a chance to sit down and talk with him; he was obviously very excited, not only with just being here but the players we have and just the potential of this offense,” Clay said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I feel like we can have one of the top offenses in the NFL. He works real hard and he’s going to do whatever it takes to get us to where we need to be.
“It’s real exciting. You see some of the things they did last year. They were obviously a very explosive offense, and I feel like with the playmakers and with the guys that we have on this team, I feel like we’ve got a lot of guys that can make plays and get downfield.”
“I do all I can to help,” Clay said. “I’ve been in their situation, so I know how it feels. There’s Dion (Sims) coming in as a rookie and (Michael) Egnew, switching positions and kind of getting thrown into the fire a little bit last year. They helped me a lot as well, and then to have a presence like (tight ends coach) Dan Campbell in our room, it helps tremendously.
“In my case, I feel like you’re never too old to stop learning, so I try to watch not just tight ends all around the league but I’ll watch receivers, I watch running backs on our team, I try to watch everybody. You can learn from anyone.”
The idea is to never stop getting better. Then maybe Clay can put together another season to remember.