Clayton out of Billick's doghouse

WESTMINSTER -- Mark Clayton has picked the lock and escaped from Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick's doghouse.

The rookie wide receiver's methods have centered on one highlight catch after another in his attempt to regain ground lost during a five-day holdout last week that ended Saturday when he signed a five-year, $8.2 million contract.

"He's impressive," Billick said of Clayton, the Ravens' first-round draft pick. "He's picked up the offense very well in a short period of time."

Clayton repeated Thursday what's rapidly becoming a familiar sequence at the Ravens' training camp.

The former Oklahoma consensus All-American lost cornerback Calvin Carlyle on a vertical route up the sidelines for a touchdown, darting behind the secondary with his sharp routes and athleticism.

Clayton leapt over future Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders on Wednesday, drawing major applause from the crowd at McDaniel College.

"That's just competing," said Clayton, who was acquired to upgrade the NFL's 31st-ranked passing game. "Baltimore brought me in because they knew I was a competitor. When the ball's in the air as a receiver, you take pride in coming down with it.

"I'm just taking my time. They do have a week on me, but I've got to be on the same level as they are. And so far I'm pretty good."

Clayton has quickly assimilated the Ravens' playbook despite skipping 10 practices and not signing his contract in time to participate in a scrimmage last weekend against the Washington Redskins.

Locked in competition to emerge as the Ravens' No. 2 receiver behind Derrick Mason, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Clayton is trying to catch up with 6-6 wideout Clarence Moore.

"Mark has shown me he's more than worthy of being a first-round pick," offensive coordinator Jim Fassel said. "He's a player. He has a great attitude. He makes big plays.

"It's just great to have him on the team. Our front office did a great job by getting him because he's one of the top rookie receivers."

Billick indicated that Clayton is likely to be used on 10 to 12 snaps against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday at the Georgia Dome in addition to punt returns.

"He'll be tested on Saturday, a different level for him," Billick said. "It'll be a good start for him."

As for that doghouse, Billick said: "With every catch, he gets a little more and more out."

BOULWARE UPDATE: Outside linebacker Peter Boulware, whom Baltimore released this spring as a salary-cap casualty, could try out for the Ravens on Tuesday or Wednesday according to an ESPN.com report.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and Ravens coach Brian Billick declined to comment on the four-time Pro Bowl selection, but the Ravens have already acknowledged dialogue and interest in reuniting with Boulware.

"That's news to me if we are bringing him in," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "That would be fine by me."

The Ravens' all-time leader in sacks with 67 ½ , Boulware, 30, missed all of last season with knee and toe injuries and hasn't played in a game since the 2003 season.

Boulware was scheduled to earn $6 million this season and rejected a restructured contract that would have paid him $2 million in salary and $2 million more in incentives.

If he's really healthy, bringing Boulware back makes sense since the Ravens could be without linebacker Dan Cody (knee) for the entire season and starter Adalius Thomas hyperextended his knee earlier this week. Thomas is expected to return soon.

"I hope we do bring Peter back," Pro Bowl pass rusher Terrell Suggs said. "That's just one more person who can pressure the quarterback.

SCARY SITUATION: Special teams coordinator Gary Zauner spent three days in the hospital this week with a staph infection that spread throughout his leg from a cut in his foot.

Out of the hospital now, Zauner has returned to practice with a sleeve on his leg to keep it dry. The infection endangered his knee replacement, Zauner said.

Team doctors prescribed antibiotics for the veteran coach after his entire leg turned red and swelled up. Assistant special teams coach Bennie Thompson filled in while Zauner was in the hospital.

"I'm doing much better," Zauner said Thursday night, "but I'm not completely out of the woods yet."

TRAINING ROOM: Tight end Todd Heap (ankle, shoulder), running back Musa Smith (leg), nickel back Dale Carter (leg), linebacker Adalius Thomas (knee) and Cody (knee) didn't practice.

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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