Numbers don't concern Mark Clayton.
The Ravens wide receiver doesn't worry about the number of times quarterback Joe Flacco has bypassed him in favor of teammates Derrick Mason and Ray Rice. He doesn't stress out about the number of catches he has made this season. And he won't get bent out of shape over an unpredictable future that - for now - could include a foray into free agency.
"All you can do is control what you can control, and that's going out every game day and doing your best and taking advantage of every opportunity that you have," Clayton said Wednesday, just three days after posting season highs in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (129) in the team's 20-17 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. "I can look in the mirror and be proud of myself, to know that every time I stepped off that field I gave it my all. I left my heart, I left everything I had on that field, and when I came off with a win or a loss, I could look myself in the mirror and be proud."
Clayton's comments are refreshing, considering the diva personalities that tend to populate NFL locker rooms. Wide receivers in particular tend to dominate the headlines with their demands for the football, and Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens have banged the drum louder than most.
Clayton, who has been a frequent target of fans' criticism, said he doesn't feel vindicated by his performance against Pittsburgh.
"Nothing has changed," he said. "To me, God placed me here. Him placing me here, I know that I have the ability to do whatever it takes at this level. It's just being confident in that and knowing that when those opportunities present themselves, take advantage of them."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he is impressed with Clayton's character.
"I think it says a lot about Mark and some other guys, too, that have been in that situation where it's tough," Harbaugh said Monday. "You don't always get the ball as much as you want, don't necessarily make all the catches you want to make. But Mark's made big plays for us in the past. For him to come up - I think he got targeted 10 times and made seven catches - that is a tremendous accomplishment. And then the plays, they were big ones, especially the one down the left sideline. I think it says a lot about not just what kind of person he is, but what kind of player he is."
Since the organization used its first-round pick in the 2005 draft to select Clayton out of Oklahoma, the 27-year-old wide-out has shown flashes of potential amid stretches of mediocrity.
He set franchise rookie records in receptions (44) and yards (471) and has recorded nine 100-yard receiving games, which is a club record.
But since catching 67 passes for 939 yards and five touchdowns in 2006, Clayton hasn't caught more than 48 passes or compiled more than 774 yards in a season. And he has yet to record back-to-back 100-yard receiving games, averaging just 30 yards a game after a 100-yard performance.
Clayton said he doesn't care about the numbers. "That's not my buildup; that's not who I am," he said. "Whether you get the ball 20 times or zero times, I'm at peace with it. Doing your best, the best you can, nurturing different relationships along the way, there's so much more to this game than stats. To have a relationship with Derrick Mason or to talk to a guy who's experienced life like Ray Lewis or to get knowledge and understanding about life, I just enjoy the ride."
Similarly, Clayton - who makes $2 million this season, the final year of his contract - said he hasn't been distracted by the absence of a contract extension. Clayton said he wants to remain with the Ravens, but that's about the extent of his concern over his future.
"If I get a catch or if I don't get a catch, I'm glad I'm breathing," he said. "If I get a million dollars or if I get $2, I'm glad I'm breathing. So I don't worry about finances, I don't worry about balls, I don't worry about contracts, I don't worry about any of that stuff."
Guard Chris Chester, who played at Oklahoma with Clayton, said Clayton's personality has not changed since their college days.
"If he were one of those guys who wanted the ball thrown to him on every play no matter what, then that would be surprising," Chester said. "The Mark I've known has never been worried about himself. He's always been a team guy first."
Despite his showing against the Steelers, Clayton insisted that his approach to Monday night's game against the Green Bay Packers won't change.
"My thing is to prepare every week as if you are the guy that they're depending on to win the game," he said.
"For me, [that means] to know everything just like Joe knows it. They know that I'm dependable and that they can depend on me to make plays for this offense and get the win."
Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton, who had 129 receiving yards Sunday, has averaged 30.2 receiving yards after his previous eight 100-yard receiving performances: DateOpp.Rec.YardsTDs12-19-05 G.B.224010-29-06 N.O.117011-19-06Atl.589012-10-06Cle.142012-31-06Buf.226011-18-07Cle.29012-7-08Wash.21901-4-09Miami2160