Posted on: August 20, 2011 5:33 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 5:36 pm
Last week, former Rams and Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton had a tryout with the New England Patriots. Not only did he pass his physical with the team, but Clayton was able to run routes without issue.
That tryout alone was a huge step for Clayton, who ruptured his patella tendon after five games in St. Louis last year. In those five games, the former Oklahoma Sooner burst for 306 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 23 catches, showing some of the spark that made him a Fantasy consideration as far back as 2006. Playing with Sam Bradford didn't hurt either.
Clayton said that he was told from Rams personnel before the lockout that he'd return to the team, but such a development never materialized. Josh McDaniels was hired to run the offense after Pat Shurmur left to coach the Browns and the team added two rookies and free-agent receiver Mike Sims-Walker.
Enter the Patriots.
"They called my agent and asked about me," Clayton told CBSSports.com. "They wanted to know what kind of condition I was in. My agent suggested to take a look for themselves and they brought me in."
After going through their standard physical, Clayton hit the field with Patriots personnel to show what he could do. He didn't catch passes from Tom Brady but still left them with something to think about.
"I was able to run some routes and show stability in my knee," Clayton said. "Really, I just had fun running routes again."
Running routes wasn't something Clayton could even think about last winter while getting back into shape. Though the rehab is in his rear view mirror, Clayton recently saw Cardinals rookie running back Ryan Williams fall victim to the exact same knee injury he had, even in the same leg, and knows exactly what he's going through.
"Rehab was tough, monotonous," Clayton said. "When you don't feel like it's getting better, it is. For like four or five months I said, 'Man, when am I going to turn the corner and get better?'
"Suddenly by the sixth month I was showing improvement and making strides. But before then I was showing improvement by doing the little things and that was what became important."
Clayton is sure that with the right rehabilitation, Williams can get back to where he was. He's sure about that because of the journey he's been on since that fateful game in Detroit. He credits his trainers in St. Louis, who also work with running back Steven Jackson, for bringing his game back.
"Right now I feel like I am as fast as I was last year, and I know I have room for improvement," Clayton said. "Now the focus is in building my strength and endurance even more than it is in my leg. I'm the same exact player otherwise."
Clayton is waiting to hear the word from the Patriots, and it's not going to be long before other teams come calling. After succeeding in Shurmur's West Coast offense last year and gaining experience with the Ravens in the mid-2000s, Clayton figures he can adapt to any playbook that's out there. The receiver has the mind of a coach when it comes to football, but he's still got the athleticism of a player, making for a reliable combination for a team to uncover in the near future -- and for Fantasy owners to cash in on during the football season.