Tampa Bay wide receiver Michael Clayton was one of eight players made inactive for the regular season opener in New Orleans last Sunday.
The former first-round draft pick said he wasn't surprised that he was made inactive based on the limited number of reps he received during the week leading up to the game, which Tampa Bay lost to New Orleans, 24-20.
"I saw it coming. It's a numbers game," said Clayton. "That's just how it was. We'll see what happens for the upcoming game.
"It was tough. You always want to be out there with your teammates. Losing the game doesn't make it feel any better. But it's behind me."
Clayton, 25, started 13 of the 16 games he played in as a rookie in 2004. His journey through the NFL has been a rough one since then. He's missed eight games due to injury over the past three seasons. Clayton has also scored just one touchdown since 2005.
Despite facing that adversity, Clayton said being inactive for Sunday's game was the toughest decision ever handed down to him during his five-year tenure with the Buccaneers.
"It was [the toughest decision I've had to deal with as a pro]," said Clayton. "Being inactive is a blow to your pride. You work hard in the offseason and you expect to be rewarded, but that didn't happen. Mentally, you have to stay in the game and stay focused. I have that mindset and I'm excited about this week in terms of getting the opportunity to play."
The Bucs made Clayton inactive due to the fact that they had to make seven players inactive to reach the league-mandated active roster amount of 46 players on game days. The emergency quarterback counts as the eighth inactive player on the team.
With Clayton on the bench, the Bucs started Joey Galloway and Antonio Bryant at wide receiver. Maurice Stovall, Ike Hilliard and rookie Dexter Jackson were also active for the regular season opener.
When asked what he had to do to earn playing time on game days, Clayton suggested his role could be determined by how his fellow receivers perform ahead of him.
"I don't know. There's a possibility it won't ever change," said Clayton. "If the receivers do a good job and nobody gets hurt, then that's a possibility. It's a long season and you never know what is going to happen, but you have to be prepared to play."
There's a chance Clayton will play vs. the Falcons due to the neck injury Stovall sustained in New Orleans. However, Stovall did practice on Wednesday. Last week, Clayton was limited in practice due to a chest injury. He isn't sure how much that factored into the decision to bench him, but Clayton apparently could have played vs. the Saints.
"I was banged up a little bit, but I could have played 100 percent," said Clayton. "I don't know if because of my injury they wanted to help me out. They didn't tell me anything. It was a game day decision and it was one I had to live with for the first time in my career.
"Coach Gruden and I have a great relationship. I'm pretty sure [general manager] Bruce Allen had something to do with it with me being banged up and all, or I'd like to say that's what I hope to believe. I just want to keep a positive attitude, and I will."
Some NFL wide receivers complain through the media when the ball isn't being thrown their way enough, let alone not being made active for game days. Although he wants to play, Clayton, who is in the final year of his contract with the Buccaneers, refuses to lobby for his playing time through the media. He'll continue to try to do that on the practice field.
"I just practice, keep my mouth shut and play football," said Clayton. "Everybody around here knows what I can do on the field. Given the opportunity, I'll take it with a smile on my face. I'll be the Good Samaritan and coach up my guys on the sideline and do whatever I can to help us win."
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