Billick hitting boiling point with Clayton

WESTMINSTER -- Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick unleashed a verbal assault on the perceived culprits behind first-round draft pick Mark Clayton's holdout: Clayton's agents. The wide receiver missed his fifth day and 10th practice of training camp Friday, and Billick blamed Clayton's representatives, Ben Dogra and Jim Steiner, for the delay while praising Baltimore's negotiating team of general manager Ozzie Newsome and vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty.

No deal is imminent, and the delay is apparently centered on money and contract language involving incentive clauses.

"If you're not in camp, I don't think your representation is doing a good job," Billick said. "The easiest thing in the world is to stay out of camp. I don't even know who his agents are. I don't even really care at this point.

"It's a sad scenario you see over and over again. The kid is going to be here, make no mistake. In no uncertain terms, it's hurting this football team. Anybody who wants to justify it the other way is mistaken."

As the 22nd overall pick, Clayton is sandwiched between the five-year, $8.45 million contract of No. 21 pick Matt   Jones and the five-year, $7.8 million deal of No. 23 pick Fabian Washington.

Under the NFL slotting principle, Clayton is supposed to receive a five-year, $8.125 million contract. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars gave Jones lucrative escalator clauses that could raise his base salary by $2.7 million in the fourth year of his deal depending on his number of catches and touchdowns.

"When you wait this long, the slotting is done," Billick said. "Now somehow you've got to justify why you stayed out. What happens is you have to manufacture some peripheral things that don't mean anything to justify, ‘Oh, I see you got more.'

"It's frustrating because we've got to get ready for a season. It's the business part of it. I've always said that there is a time for pay and a time for play. Right now, it's time to play, period."

Clayton is the only unsigned pick in the bottom half of this year's first round. He repeatedly told the Times he would avoid a holdout, predicting a week ago that he would report on time.

While the Ravens have a lot of experience with holdouts, dating all the way back to Peter Boulware's five-week absence in 1997, so do Clayton's agents. They kept Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie out for 98 days in 2002.

"Billick can say what he wants," Dogra said in an e-mail. "He's the head coach. This deal will not be completed based on public pressure. It will be completed when it makes sense for both sides."

One team official predicted the holdout could end by Tuesday.

Yet, Clayton has already jeopardized his chances of becoming a rookie starter. Clarence Moore is playing opposite veteran Derrick Mason and Clayton would likely be the No. 3 receiver and play in the slot once he reports.

Billick continues to praise the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Moore as a contrast to the 5-10 Mason.

"You don't want a receiving corps of all the same guys unless all those same guys are Jerry Rice," Billick said. "You'd like diversity. Clarence has been outstanding in camp. He's heavier. He's faster.

"He's stronger and he's more confident all across the board. He carries himself in a totally different way than he did one year ago."

Meanwhile, Billick has major reservations about Clayton's durability considering the hamstring problems that plagued him during minicamps.

"You saw it in the T.O. [Terrell Owens] situation, if a guy is not there from the beginning of camp when he does report, he gets very anxious and wants to catch up and he pulls something," Billick said. "Mark Clayton hasn't gotten past two days worth of workouts since we've had him. I am very concerned about that.

"Not only when he comes back does he not jump right into it, I've got to spend a couple days making sure that he's not going to get hurt. Now, I am going to lose those days as well. It is what it is."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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