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CLAYTON OWNS UP TO FIGHT FOR STARTING SPOT

Michael Clayton isn't ready to concede his starting job to the up-and-coming Maurice Stovall.

But even Clayton, the embattled fourth-year player in the midst of a fierce battle for No. 2 receiver, can no longer ignore that Stovall has an important role on this team.

"It's real intense," Clayton said of the competition. "The guy is good. He's ready to play right now, and he can do some things in the red zone that not a lot of guys can do. I think that it's real important as an offense to get everybody in (the game) because that's how we'll maximize the talent."

In an effort to accomplish that, Clayton envisions himself and Stovall having roles with the first-team offense that will be determined by game situations. Clayton is regarded for his toughness. Meanwhile the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Stovall, also considered a physical player, can create huge mismatches against smaller defensive backs.

"It's basically going to boil down to a situation where certain guys are going to be in there to get the job done who are best suited for it," Clayton said. "The most important thing is that we as an offense want to be successful to win football games. If that's what we have to do, then that's what we're going to do and everybody will be happy about it."

Clayton was somewhat defiant about his personal situation, saying he doesn't believe he has a problem with dropping the ball. His numbers have consistently declined since his stellar rookie season. His 1,193 yards in 2004 have been overshadowed by his pedestrian second and third seasons, when he had a combined 728 yards. Asked about his place with the team long term, Clayton - who has two years remaining on his rookie contract - wouldn't speculate.

"Whatever happens here, I'm just trying to put myself in position to make plays," he said. "Whatever happens here is going to happen. I can't control that. All I can do is be the player that I am. If that's not good enough, then obviously, I won't be here."

BROOKS IS BACK: LB Derrick Brooks was more involved in practice Tuesday after being significantly limited the previous three days because of a hamstring strain.

TRANSACTION: The Bucs signed former USF DE Tim Jones. Jones was a tryout player for the Bucs in 2006 but was not invited to camp.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at 813-226-3377 or sholder@sptimes.com.

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