TAMPA — Even before Michael Clayton reintroduced himself to the end zone Saturday, the Bucs were fielding calls from other teams interested in trading for the enigmatic receiver.
A change of scenery might be good for Clayton, who is in the final year of his contract. And certainly, the Bucs have a surplus of pass catchers. But it's unlikely any route Clayton runs this season will take him out of Tampa Bay.
"I'm interested in Clayton, too. I don't care who else is," coach Jon Gruden said Monday. "We're going to keep our best players, and I'll leave it at that. We've had a real competitive camp, and Mike has done some good things. People call all the time about all kinds of things.
"I thought he played well. He showed what a physical perimeter player he is. He made a great catch on an inside route for a first down away from his body. The touchdown catch was a hell of a catch. He ran a great route. It was good."
That's not to say the Bucs won't entertain trades, but at receiver they are dealing from strength. The Bucs have to cut five players to reach the 75-man limit today and must get down to 53 players by Saturday.
Joey Galloway, who missed all of training camp and all three preseason games with a groin strain, practiced at full speed for the first time Monday. For the blazing fast 36-year-old, that's saying something.
Gruden said Galloway could play in the preseason finale Thursday at Houston.
"He looked good today, and we're encouraged to have him back," Gruden said. "He ran some good routes, showed good quickness in and out of his breaks and showed good speed down the field. So we were pleased to have him back.
"I didn't see any limit on him whatsoever. We didn't go extremely long today given the fact that we played (Saturday) night, and we've got a number of players still a little banged up."
Galloway had offseason shoulder surgery and has had no full contact. But the goal is to get him ready for the Sept. 7 opener at New Orleans.
"He's a guy who played 26 snaps cumulative last year in the preseason and I think 22 the year before," Gruden said. "I kind of did the math on that. So, if you play him 12 plays in the game, is that really going to get him ready to play in the regular season? He's missed a lot of practice time. He missed all the preseason. The great thing is he is healthy, he looked great today. I'm going to look at it as good news. I'm going to try not to beat myself up with all the what-ifs."
Clayton said he has not focused on the multiple scenarios, either, though he did hear broadcaster Chris Myers say general manager Bruce Allen had been fielding calls from teams interested in trading for him.
"The best thing to do is to continue to play," Clayton said. "If everybody continues to do the same thing and stay on the track we're on, it's positive for everybody. The guys that will be here will be here. The guys who will not, they're putting enough stuff on tape to be somewhere."
Galloway, Maurice Stovall, Ike Hilliard, Antonio Bryant and rookie Dexter Jackson would appear to be locks for the team. Add Clayton and you have six receivers on the roster, a big number. That list doesn't include Micheal Spurlock, Brian Clark or Paris Warren, to name a few.
"We have to figure out what we're going to do," Gruden said. "How many are you going be able to carry on game day? Who's dressing? Is Galloway ready? Is Antonio ready? Who else is there? Just try to have a vision if this guy goes down, do we have a replacement?
"It's a credit to the receivers, they've all created some competition, quality competition at that, too. We've got some good players there."
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected]