Wide receiver Mark Clayton looked to the ceiling of the Ravens' locker room in mock celebration after being asked about scoring his first touchdown in almost two years.
"It was refreshing, man," Clayton said after practice yesterday about his 47-yard touchdown reception. "But more than that, it was about contributing to the offense and putting points on the board. We want to be amongst the top teams in the NFL in scoring, and we need plays like that and we need touchdowns to do that."
The offense could use a few more performances from Clayton like the one he posted in the Ravens' 37-27 win against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Clayton caught four passes for 87 yards - his most since he compiled 90 yards against the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 9, 2007 - and caught his first touchdown pass since he hauled in a 35-yard score against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 24, 2006.
Clayton, a first-round draft pick in 2005, appeared to explode in 2006 when he recorded career highs in yards (939) and touchdowns (five), but he could not sustain that momentum.
Although fans and posters on Internet message boards have questioned Clayton's capabilities, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said blame should not be placed solely on Clayton.
"Mark has worked extremely hard, and he's getting better," Cameron said. "I know sometimes you look at those and you say, 'Why didn't they go that guy earlier?' Well, A, it probably wasn't there earlier, and B, that player probably wasn't playing at that level earlier. We've got a group of guys that are getting better. Not only collectively, but I think individually, some guys are really making improvements."
Clayton said he is simply developing into the role outlined for him by Cameron and coach John Harbaugh during the offseason.
"They explained to me the role that they wanted me to have on offense, and that's the way we've practiced," Clayton said. "We went through training camp and back in minicamps with me in the position that they planned for me to be in, which is stretching the field and getting some underneath stuff and getting up the field. We've just evolved as the season went on, and as an offense, we've been able to open different avenues of our offense."
Injury list grows
Add Le'Ron McClain to the list of running backs who are dealing with pain before Sunday's game against the Houston Texans. McClain was limited in practice yesterday by a sore ankle, according to the Ravens' official injury report.
McClain joins Willis McGahee (ankle) and rookie Ray Rice (chest), both of whom were also limited. But Cameron said he expects Rice, who gained a career-high 159 yards against the Browns, to play.
The Ravens were among a dozen teams that expressed interest in signing free-agent cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who was waived by the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday, although it is not clear whether the Ravens would continue talks about Hall. Assistant head coach-defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said he has not talked to his twin brother, Rob Ryan, who is the Raiders' defensive coordinator, about Hall. "I tried to, but for some reason, he's not returning calls," Rex Ryan said jokingly about his brother. "Some of the players and I have talked about [Hall], but we'll see." ... Cornerback Chris McAlister (right knee) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (left thigh) did not practice. McAlister has missed two consecutive practices. Limited in practice were offensive tackles Adam Terry (sprained right knee) and Jared Gaither (stinger), cornerback Samari Rolle (neck surgery), linebacker Bart Scott (chest) and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (shoulder). ... For the Texans, starting defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (ankle) missed his second straight practice, but linebacker DeMeco Ryans (shoulder) and wide receiver Kevin Walter (back) returned on a limited basis. ... Tight end Todd Heap did not catch a pass in the win at Cleveland, but Cameron said Heap contributes in other ways. "I think Todd's averaging over 60 plays a game, and when you're in the top five or so in the league in rushing, you don't do that without a good tight end," Cameron said. "He has a huge role in what we do. ... Our concern is to try to win, but he is at the front of our minds, and he is doing an outstanding job."