Clayton gets up to speed

Ravens rookie impresses at training camp after getting off to late start following holdout

August 11, 2005|By Dave Alexander | Dave Alexander,Baltimoresun.com Staff

For someone who missed the first week of training camp, Ravens rookie receiver Mark Clayton has caught on in a hurry.

Clayton has been among the most impressive players during the Ravens training camp workouts this week, displaying the quickness, hands and playmaking ability that led Baltimore to choose the former Oklahoma standout with the No. 22 overall pick in the NFL draft.

His leaping catch over cornerback Deion Sanders on a deep jump ball during Wednesday's practice was among the highlights of the week.

"That's just competing," Clayton said. "Baltimore brought me in because they knew I was a competitor, and when the ball's in the air, as a receiver you take pride in coming down with it."

Clayton has picked up the Ravens offense quickly considering he missed five days of practice last week plus Saturday's scrimmage against the Washington Redskins due to a contract holdout. He signed a five-year, $8.2 million contract on Friday night and spent about 20 minutes after Monday's practice working one-on-one with quarterback Kyle Boller.

"I'm just taking my time," Clayton said. "They do have a week on me, but I've got to be on the same level as they are. And so far I'm pretty good."

Ravens coach Brian Billick said Clayton would probably be used on about 10-12 snaps and possibly some punt returns Saturday in the team's first exhibition game at the Atlanta Falcons.

"He's impressive," Billick said. "He's picked up the offense very well in a short period of time. He'll be tested on Saturday, a different level for him. It'll be a good start for him."

Clayton was brought in to bolster a passing game ranked next to last in the NFL last season (144.5 yards per game). He is competing for the No. 2 receiver's role opposite veteran Derrick Mason, who was signed in the offseason as a free agent.

"Mark's not playing any catch-up," second-year receiver Clarence Moore said. "This is what we do. We play football. And from the day he got out here, that's what he's done. Everyone knew he could play, and he's shown us."

Thursday's practice focused on formations and personnel groupings as the Ravens prepare for Saturday's exhibition game. Billick cut the workout short by about 20 minutes.

August 11, 2005, 5:48 PM EDT

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