Clayton thrilled to end holdout

BALTIMORE – Rookie wide receiver Mark Clayton no longer has to spend his days hanging out in quarterback Kyle Boller's basement, or unleashing his frustrations at Gold's Gym. The Baltimore Ravens' first-round draft pick signed his five-year, $8.2 million contract Saturday morning prior to a scrimmage against the Redskins, ending a five-day holdout.

Clayton has already sung the Oklahoma Sooners' school song once and been reminded that he'll be paying for teammates' expensive dinner tabs.

The experience tested Clayton's patience, and the tolerance of Ravens coach Brian Billick.

"It's a relief," Clayton said. "I'm glad and excited, blessed and honored. I'm ready to play some football. It was one of the toughest situations of my life.

"I woke up every day and my palms were sweating because I needed to catch a ball. My stomach was grumbling because I was ready to go."

The 22nd overall pick received $6 million in guaranteed money and could earn an additional $2.5 million in his fifth year with an escalator clause. Haggling over guaranteed money and incentives stalled the deal as length and money had been agreed upon days ago.

"It wasn't about me asking for more money, that was not the issue," Clayton said. "It was a structural issue. They were going back and forth on how they wanted to write it up."

The consensus All-American caught 221 passes for 3,241 yards and 31 touchdowns in college and was drafted to upgrade the 31st-ranked passing game in the NFL.

Now, the Texas native has major ground to make up and needs to prove that his hamstring is fully healed after being severely limited during minicamps.

"The hamstring feels great," said Clayton, who worked out regularly during his absence and kept in touch with his playbook and receivers coach David Shaw. "Obviously, I'm a week behind the guys so I have to come in and go at my pace. I can't catch up for a whole week in one day."

Clayton is likely to begin workouts as the No. 3 receiver as 6-foot-6 Clarence Moore has had a strong training camp.

"I am going to work hard and do whatever it takes for us to win on my behalf," Clayton said. "Start, come off the bench or go over the middle, I'll do whatever."

It doesn't sound like Billick has entirely forgiven Clayton for the contract dispute. Billick expressed extreme frustration Friday that the holdout has hurt the team.

"I've just got to be careful now, I can't get him hurt," Billick said. "He hasn't had two days in a row where he hasn't gotten hurt.

"I can't just throw him out there Monday. I've got to ease him into it and he's behind the curve."

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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