tampabay.com

Bucs have high expectations for No. 1 pick

WR Michael Clayton takes up the 6-year, $13-million challenge from Gruden and the Bucs.

Associated Press
Published July 23, 2004


TAMPA - Jon Gruden was half joking when he turned toward Michael Clayton to finish answering a question about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' expectations for the talented rookie receiver.

"We think he's got a chance to be outstanding," the coach said today. "We'll be very, very disappointed if he's not - Mike."

Clayton, a first-round draft pick who signed a six-year contract worth about $13-million, fired a quick retort.

"I'll be very disappointed if I'm not - coach," the former LSU star said.

Clayton, whose deal includes a $6.2-million signing bonus, likes the idea of being counted on to make an immediate impact on a team just two years removed from winning its first Super Bowl.

He had 182 receptions for 2,582 yards and 21 touchdowns in three years at LSU, including 78 catches and 10 TDs last season, when he helped the Tigers win the Bowl Championship Series title for their first national championship in 45 years.

The Bucs also announced the signing of cornerback Lenny Williams, the last of Tampa Bay's three picks in the seventh round. Offensive lineman Mark Moroz was released.

Clayton will compete for playing time with a group of receivers that includes offseason acquistions Joey Galloway and Bill Schroeder, as well as Joe Jurevicius, who missed most of last season with a knee injury.

His chances of playing early also could be enhanced by Keenan McCardell's demand for a new contract.

The Pro Bowl receiver is scheduled to earn $2.5 million this year and $2.75 million in 2005, but has said he will not report to training camp next week unless he receives an extension boosting his salary closer to the average for No. 1 receivers in the NFL.

"Obviously, Keenan's situation disturbs me," Gruden said, adding that once camp opens next Friday that his main concern will be preparing the team to rebound from last year's 7-9 finish.

"I really like Keenan. ... But the message we're sending as a football team is we're going to work July 30. That's a mandatory reporting date. ... Whoever's there, we'll welcome with open arms. And if you're not there, then you're not there."

Clayton, who left LSU after his junior season, was anxious to sign before training camp to give himself every opportunity to build on the progress he made during mini-camp and voluntary workouts this summer.

"There's no limit to what you can learn in this offense," he said. "Coach Gruden is always throwing stuff at you."

The coaching staff has been impressed by the 21-year-old's attitude and work ethic. Clayton said becoming an instant millionaire won't affect his approach.

"I still have to go out there and earn a job," Clayton said. "So nothing has changed.