Clayton Getting Closer



Harbaugh Nixes Thoughts Of Receiver Playing Saturday

He Won't 'Put Him At Risk'

August 28, 2009|By Ken Murray and Edward Lee | Ken Murray and Edward Lee,

Mark Clayton moved closer Thursday to returning to game action, but it won't be this week, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Moments after Clayton told reporters he felt he could play in Saturday night's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, Harbaugh said the Ravens would not risk their veteran wide receiver in a game before the final week of the preseason and possibly not before the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 13.

"The season is obviously the most important part," Harbaugh said. "We certainly aren't going to put him at risk. So you won't see him in this game. ... Yeah, we'd love to have the guy out there playing and becoming the best Mark he can be, but we've got to have him healthy."

Harbaugh acknowledged that Clayton, out since Aug. 2 with a partially torn left hamstring, has made "good progress" in the past week. "He moved around well. It's good to see him open up his stride a little bit," the coach said.

Clayton participated in limited drills Wednesday. In the portion of practice reporters were permitted to watch Thursday, he fielded punts and ran back a kickoff. He said he is almost pain-free.

"I feel great," Clayton said. "The [healing] process has been really good. It's really a blessing to be out and be able to ... do some things at this point because we weren't expecting me to go out until maybe the first or second week of the season. I'm just happy to be back."

Busy stretch

The trip to Carolina marks the second of three games in 10 days for the Ravens, a scheduling oddity caused by their appearance on "Monday Night Football" this week. While the Panthers have had a week to go through the game-plan ritual most clubs do in the third week of the preseason, the Ravens have had just two practices.

Harbaugh said the Ravens won't install a formal game plan this week but did focus on Carolina in Thursday's practice. He doesn't see a problem with the schedule: "We're going to get what we need" out of the last two preseason games, he said.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron thinks the Ravens will, in fact, have a "better evaluation" of players with the squeeze. "It's a chance to see if guys can adapt," he said. "You've got to be able to adapt, adjust and play at a high level. I think it'll help tell us a lot about a guy in a short week, just how quickly he can comprehend a new game plan."

Injury update

Besides defensive tackle Kelly Gregg (shoulder) and tight end L.J. Smith (hamstring), right guard Chris Chester will sit out Saturday's game with a strained right calf.

"I could probably go this week, but we want to be smart about it," Chester said.

Smith said he is frustrated because this is the second time he has dealt with a gimpy left hamstring this summer. This injury is at the lower part of the hamstring and the tendon. "I'm just frustrated because I wanted to keep progressing, keep learning, keep trying to get more comfortable in the system," he said.

Left tackle Jared Gaither (trapezius) was limited in Thursday's practice.

Dates to remember

Saturday: Third preseason game at Carolina

Tuesday: Roster cut to 75

Sept. 3: Preseason finale at Atlanta

Sept. 5: Roster cut to 53

Sept. 13: Season opener against Kansas City at M&T Bank Stadium

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