Clayton on the mend

OWINGS MILLS -- Mark Clayton hopes that he's finally solved his string of injury problems, recovering enough that he'll be able to greatly expand his contribution Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. The Baltimore Ravens' starting wide receiver entered this season with hefty expectations, but his production has been curtailed severely by a nagging toe injury.

"It's frustrating, it's hard," Clayton said after practice Thursday. "We just started this season and you want to make things happen out there. But, at the same time, I know that I need to get healthy and be at the best of my abilities to meet my potential."

First, Clayton rehabbed a high-ankle sprain that kept him out of the final two preseason games. Now, a toe injury on his left foot has prevented him from starting and limited him primarily to third-down duty during the opening two games.

Earlier this week, Ravens coach Brian Billick said he expected Clayton to get back to his old, explosive self this week. Clayton is no longer listed on the injury report.

The Ravens' leader in receiving yardage last season with 939 yards caught his first pass -- a screen for a loss of one yard -- in a 20-13 win last week against the New York Jets.

"I've had to be patient and just work hard and try to take good care of myself," said Clayton, who has dealt with hamstring problems in the past. "It's not always about how you start the season, it's about how you finish it. There's a lot of football left to be played."

INJURY UPDATE: Quarterback Steve McNair (groin pull) practiced for the second consecutive day without incident and wasn't listed on the injury report.

"Steve looked really good," Clayton said. "I thought he seemed fine."

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (turf toe, sprained foot) was wearing shorts and didn't participate in the portion of practice open to reporters.

"He's still working through it," Billick said. Cornerback Samari Rolle (illness) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (sprained ankle) didn't practice.

"I'm getting close," Wilcox said.

Fullback Justin Green (thigh) and linebacker Gary Stills (knee) were limited. Stills had his knee drained Wednesday.

"I'm definitely playing," said Stills, who hasn't missed a game since 2001. "This isn't going to stop me from being out there."

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (knee), cornerbacks David Pittman (ankle) and Corey Ivy (thigh), safety Gerome Sapp (foot) and tight end Quinn Sypniewski (neck) practiced.

NO FINE: NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail to Ravens Insider that Billick will not be fined for criticizing the officiating during the Jets game. He added that the league considers the allegations Billick made about the Jets trying to cause illegal-procedure penalties by imitating Kyle Boller's cadence to be a closed issue.

"In addition, we have found no evidence that Jets players were illegally interfering with the signal-calling of the Ravens," Aiello wrote. SACKLESS: Linebacker Bart Scott hasn't recorded a sack yet this year after leading all NFL inside linebackers a year ago with 9 1/2 sacks. After making the Pro Bowl, he's not a secret anymore.

"Hopefully some more of these safeties will get some more sacks so they can quit sliding the line to me," Scott said. "But that's a respect factor, and I take great pride in the new challenge that I have. I embrace it. Don't worry, I'll crack through."

QUICK HITS: Running back Mike Anderson was deactivated last week because of a lack of depth at cornerback and linebacker due to injuries, according to Billick. ... Stills, who used to play with Pro Bowl return man Dante Hall when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs, has been impressed by rookie speedster Yamon Figurs. "Once he gets the experience, he's going to explode," Stills said of the third-round pick who returned a kickoff 61 yards in his first NFL game last week. "With his speed, he's going to be something special. He's still learning. He's a specimen. What does he run? A 3.9 40-yard dash?" Actually, it's 4.29, the fastest time of any rookie at the NFL scouting combine. ... Second-year punter Sam Koch ranks second in the AFC behind Shane Lechler with a 46.2 average and has started opposing drives inside the 25-yard line on nine of 11 punts. "Sam had a maturity about him last year," Billick said. "If you look at him, he looks like he's 35. He didn't act like a rookie last year. We're glad to have him." ... Cardinals rookie defensive tackle Alan Branch (broken hand) practiced. Cornerback Eric Green returned to practice after missing Wednesday for the birth of his second child.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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