Refreshed Clayton goes deep

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Two-week injury break, more passes his way have rookie receiver feeling upbeat

November 26, 2005|By BRENT JONES | BRENT JONES,SUN REPORTER

Receiver Mark Clayton missed two games earlier this season with an ankle injury, and heading into tomorrow's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, his body is thanking him for doing so.

Unlike other rookies who may soon be hitting the dreaded wall as the college regular season comes to a close, Clayton is as fresh as possible. That bodes well for a Ravens passing game that is becoming more dependent on his quickness.

"I'm pretty sure if I would have played in those two games, I obviously would feel them," Clayton said. "I'm happy with how I feel right now and am looking forward to getting the job done this week.

"I feel pretty good, surprisingly good. I thought I'd be dragging in not being able to turn on the wheels in practice. But I'm running good."

The Ravens threw Clayton's way seven times Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, including two deep shots. It was the first time Clayton was used as a vertical threat, and though the passes were incomplete, a seed may be planted against future opponents.

"It's very important," said Clayton, whose four catches for 43 yards against the Steelers was his best showing since opening night. "In this league, route-running is making everything look the same, but at the same time selling deep. But if you don't ever run deep, what gives [a cornerback] a reason to respect deep? It's important to take the shots."

That has been what other teams have been doing with their first-round receivers recently. Cleveland's Braylon Edwards, the first receiver taken in the draft, leads all rookies with 384 yards, while Jacksonville's Matt Jones has caught four touchdowns in his past two games.

Clayton's 18 catches for 141 yards trail both of those players, but he says he is not concerned about competing with members of his draft class.

"I just make sure I do my job, do what I can do," Clayton said. "I would much rather win than lead in any statistic."

C. Johnson quiet

It has been a surprisingly quiet week for otherwise noisy Bengals receiver Chad Johnson.

Johnson made a special checklist for the Ravens three weeks ago when the teams met, but Johnson's work never was revealed after coach Marvin Lewis put a stop to the display. Johnson, though, went on to catch five passes for 91 yards in the game.

Chances are, Johnson will be more talkative after kickoff, much to the annoyance of the Ravens.

"Chad does all the talking," Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister said. "I just do all the playing. I'll let him run his mouth and get himself into trouble."

Injury report

Tackle Orlando Brown (back) and running back Musa Smith (lower leg) were downgraded from questionable to doubtful. Brown missed the Steelers game after getting into a car accident earlier that week. Tony Pashos would start in place of Brown. Clayton (ankle) was added to the injury report as probable. Dale Carter (knee), Brian Rimpf (thigh) and Samari Rolle (head) were upgraded from questionable to probable.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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