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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Michael Clayton still has close ties to Bucs

Former Bucs receiver Michael Clayton was one of several one-time Tampa Bay players participating in the team's player-organized minicamp last week, and the 2004 first-round pick said he felt right at home.

"These are my little brothers," Clayton said of his former teammates. "I don’t think that will ever change. They have a great deal of respect for me and I have a great deal of respect for them. I just want to see everybody prosper and have a great, long career."

Speaking of which, Clayton believes his career is far from over despite being cut by the Bucs entering last season. Clayton was not immediately signed and settled for a stint in the UFL while awaiting another NFL opportunity. That finally came late last season when Clayton was picked up by the Giants, whose receiving corps had been besieged by injuries.

Now a free agent, Clayton said he's confident he'll be re-signed by the Giants once the NFL lockout is lifted.

"As an older, veteran team, they really have a lot of respect for veteran players," said Clayton, who still lives in Tampa and has worked out consistently at IMG Academies in Bradenton this offseason. "We (veterans) set the standard.

"It’s a great feeling. Coach (Tom) Coughlin is a great coach. He’s a no-nonsense guy. You know what you’re getting every single day. No politics, no (crap). You know what to expect. I played for Coach (Nick) Saban. It was the same way. You can always respect that."

The lack of offseason work because of the lockout could hamper young players this fall, so Clayton thinks a player of his experience can be valuable.

"I think that (because of) the quick turnaround, it will help me," he said. "I made a decision to go play in the UFL and I got picked up. I was prepared to go play in New York and I was ready to go. They had young guys on their roster who had been there for two years who they still didn’t trust.

"To be in that predicament in New York, with the short amount of free agency that we’re going to have, I think that’s really going to benefit me when we get back to playing. Everybody’s job is still on the line, but I think after eight years in the league, coaches have a lot of respect for guys, especially when you’ve carried yourself the right way."

Clayton will have to overcome his ineffectiveness in recent seasons, however. He was released by the Bucs last year even though the team had one of the league's youngest groups of receivers and despite the fact Tampa Bay had signed him to a contract with $10.5 million in guarantees just one year prior. In his final season with the Bucs, 2009, Clayton caught a career-low 16 passes. In six games with the Giants last year, he had two receptions with sporadic playing time.

It's because of those very disappointments that Clayton feels he can impart some knowledge on his young former teammates.

"I give them my testimony about everything that I’ve been through and hopefully it helps them in their careers," Clayton said. "Once you’ve played with guys, you never ever, lose that friendship."

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 12:59pm]


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