Michael Clayton says the past is just that – the past.
The Tampa Bay wide receiver is trying to return to the form that heralded his rookie year of 2004, the one that allowed him to break every Buccaneers receiving record. After two dismal seasons, due mainly to injuries, he wants to be a crucial part of the Buccaneers receiving corp.
“What happened in the past is gone; it’s basically right now all about winning football games,” Clayton said. “I think all the veteran guys on this team have the same mindsets to win, first and foremost.”
Clayton and the rest of the Buccaneers open the season Sunday in Seattle.
Clayton reported to camp at 217 pounds, a weight he likes and has maintained. He said he’s in the best shape he can be.
“I had a great offseason, had a long time to prepare and get healthy,” he said. “I utilized all my free time to getting healthy and being ready for training camp like I have never done before. I’m just looking forward to being productive.”
Health has been an issue for Clayton the past two years. He failed to properly rehab lingering injuries from his stellar 2004 season and ended the season on injured reserve. He did the same last year after injuring himself against Pittsburgh.
Combine his numbers in 2005 and 2005 and they don’t come close to matching his rookie numbers.
Head coach Jon Gruden is expecting Clayton’s productivity to return in full force.
“If you’re a pro wide receiver, you should be in great shape. That’s what you have to be in to play at a great level here in the NFL. He has had a good camp. He does have more life in his legs, and we’re expecting him to explode back onto the scene,” Gruden said.
Clayton isn’t sure where he’ll be plugged in come game time Sunday against the Seahawks.
“It’s a game time decision right now. We’ve had a great week of practice and we’ll see. Right now it really doesn’t matter who starts. We all have roles in the football game and we’re all expected to make good plays," he said.
Everyone is keeping a positive attitude, he said.
“Things are going to be expected out of all of us in the wide receiver room,” Clayton said. “We are all real close, we all help each other out; were all going to be expected to play every position out there on the field. Taking that into consideration, whenever you get the opportunity, which the opportunity will present itself, we will have to take advantage of it."
It’s all part of gelling as a team, Clayton said.
"Our chemistry is there, we have been working at it a long time,” Clayton said. “I feel that Jeff Garcia came in and did an excellent job making the transition, getting adjusted to the offense. We accepted him with open arms, and he basically came in since day one on page with us, and we were able to start the chemistry very early."