Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Michael Clayton is in damage control after a bad performance on Sunday followed up by comments that upset many Bucs fans. Clayton re-signed a five-year, $26 million contract with the Bucs in free agency prior to this season.
The sixth-year veteran wide receiver dropped a number of passes against the Eagles last Sunday. One of them was on fourth-and-2, and another came on a bomb downfield early in the first quarter. After the game Clayton made some controversial comments to the St. Petersburg Times.
"There's no excuse for dropping a ball," he said. "We definitely can't be putting a young quarterback in a situation like that. We have to come up with it. When you're able to make some plays early, as a receiver, it gets easier for you. But we dropped some early. The one down the sideline, I have to find a way to come up with that ball. That's a drop."
Clayton was asked about fan reaction to his dropped passes in light of his new lucrative contract.
"I ain't worried about that," Clayton said. "People who say stuff, they're not out there on the field. Nobody who writes (stuff) or says (stuff) can say anything about a player because they're not on the field. It's real serious out there. That's why I don't pay any attention to that stuff because the mentality is that you make up for it and you come back and catch the next one. I mean, regardless of what they say, the check is in the bank. That's not changing. It's about this team right now. Nothing can break that or make me feel bad or worry because somebody's talking about me in the paper. We just have to keep our heads."
On Tuesday afternoon Clayton appeared on Happy Hour with J.P. Peterson on WQYK 1010 AM. Clayton planned his appearance to apologize to Bucs fans for his comments and the dropped passes. The veteran receiver said his comments were taken out of context by the media.
"Obviously it wasn't a situation where after the game anybody is going to be excited or happy," Clayton said. "Emotions are running wild. To be 0-5 in the National Football League, especially in a situation where you are not anticipating for the season to go like this. It kind of puts everything in awe. Afterwards when you do your interviews, you know the media is there to give you an outlet to your fans. I can only hope the people who know these players and know myself can understand what we go through sometimes. Sometimes when people read this stuff I would never in a million years down talk my teammates, or put myself in a situation, or purposely situation where I'm viewed upon negatively. For weeks now I feel like because of my situation it is kind of like that's what's happening now.
"People pointing out the negative, or looking at it in a different way. I obviously feel, to me I feel as a professional you're trying to do your best to go on the field and participate to the best of your ability. If it doesn't work out the way you want it. You have to be positive. That is the way you treat every situation. Man you are going to have situations like this where people can talk bad about you and that stuff happens, because that's media that's what people want to hear. That's what sells papers. Obviously as a professional I have to a better job controlling my emotions, and what I say to make to sure that the things that I say can't be taken in a negative way. I have to do a better job of that, and I apologize for anybody who took what I said out of context, because that was definitely not the case. I was not trying to remind anybody of the amount of money that I made, or that the check was in the bank. It was simply, there is nothing that I can do about it but get better. The deal is done. I'm here in Tampa, and that is over with. The main focus is the team."
There were rumors that Clayton could be cut from the team on Tuesday. The Buccaneers worked out a number of free agent wide receivers at One Buc Place. Former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Matt Jones, former New York Giants receiver David Tyree, Yamon Figurs, Chris Davis, and Jordan Kent were the players that worked out for the Bucs front office and coaching staff. Figurs was signed by Tampa Bay after the try-out. Tampa Bay cut linebacker Matt McCoy later in the evening. Clayton was asked if he is worried that he could be released.
"No now at all," said Clayton. "I don't think about those things. I feel deep in me that I've shown my passion in what I want to be for this football team. Obviously it is not a good time for anybody at all."
Clayton said that he is doing extra work to try and amend his dropped passes. A few times Clayton characterized the game as a "bad day at work." The veteran said that he was pressing to try and help the team win, and he would get better. Clayton apologized to Bucs fans for the dropped passes as well, and he wanted to clear up confusion about his comments. He said he wanted to get across that he is team-oriented player.
"That is what I'm here for is to clarify that, and everything else can be put to bed," said Clayton. "Ultimately it is about the team. It is not about what people can pick out and write about you. Those are things that are going to happen. It is the nature of our business that we are in. It is those jobs guys to report what we hear. It is up to us at times to get them the information so it can be reported correctly. Sometimes it is reported correctly, and sometimes it is not. Everybody has the right to their own opinion.
Clayton said that he is and will be accountable for his post-game comments.
"As a professional I take full responsibility for the things that I say," said Clayton. "I apologize for putting our fans, who love us, and have some much passion for the Bucs, obviously, it is the reason why people are getting upset. They have so much passion about us winning, and that is understandable. I just want the people to know what kind of player I am, and I'm doing everything in my power to try and get better, and help this team win. We'll move on. We are going to make our corrections and evaluate ourselves every day."
After the Week 1 game against Dallas when Clayton had five receptions for 93 yards, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris dared people to question the team's decision to re-sign Clayton. The day after the game against Philadelphia, Morris said the Clayton could lose playing time to other wide receivers.
Morris said that Clayton, 26, could be replaced in the lineup. Backing up Clayton is Maurice Stovall, Brian Clark, and Sammie Stroughter. The rookie Stroughter has been used as the team's third receiver and he has 10 catches for 86 yards on the season. Stovall got an opportunity to play in Week 2 against Buffalo when wide receiver Antonio Bryant was out with a knee injury. Stovall responded with three catches for 80 yards, and a long reception of 38 yards. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Stovall hurt his knee in the game and has not longed a catch on offense since. Stovall has played on special teams the past two games. Morris hinted that Stovall could see more playing time on offense in place of Clayton.
"We are always considering the best 53," said Morris. "That's got to include the best 45, obviously that has to consider the best 11 guys to be out on the field. That's always a consideration. That was an opportunity for Stovall to get out there and make some plays. Maybe it is time for him to get a couple of opportunities. You won't be wrong by saying that Stovall deserves a shot, or Stovall deserves a shot to be out there. What he has done out there on special teams so far has been good. What he has done on some of the different areas here inside the building has been good. That's not far-fetched, that is not a far cry."