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Michael Clayton catches some time with Jerry Rice

There's no doubt who the greatest receiver is in NFL history.  That status lies with the great Jerry Rice of San Francisco 49er fame.  Today's greatest receiver?  That's another question.  You might hear T.O., Andre Johnson, or Reggie Wayne.  One name that also frequents the discussion? Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitz and Rice spend a week every summer training in Minnesota, along with other players.  Rice invites a select few up there, runs drills with them, coaches them up; a sort of private NFL camp for the cream of the crop.

Well this year, there's another new addition to the group.  In fact, it's another #80. That person?  None other than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers own Michael Clayton.  Now no one will confuse him with Rice, but he is up at camp with Rice, Fitz, Antrel Rolle, Greg Jennings and a few others.  The invite came from Fitzgerald, which Clayton immediately accepted.  Seems like a no-brainer, but it's a positive sign to see Clayton understand the importance of such a call and take advantage of it.  Any opportunity to brush shoulders with great talents will only help his chances to succeed.  I like the initiative he's taken and hope it yields positive results. 

To find out more about Clayton's run in with his idol Rice, click below.

Clayton grew up idolizing Rice, like most receivers of his generation.  As a young kid, Clayton saw how Rice came from a small school to become the greatest receiver that lived and it stuck with him.

"The impact that those guys had, coming from black colleges and displaying hard work and setting the tone and just really showing guys how it's done, it was tremendous.  For Jerry to be able to reach that level, to be the greatest of all time, it really puts a stamp on it. Everything that he's said has been true. I've listened and I'm really getting a lot of work here to perfect my game and make it better."


The opportunity to be around an idol is one thing, but to share the same field, pick his brain and watch how he prepares and works, even now, is an opportunity that doesn't present itself often.  For Clayton, the obvious benefit is the instruction from Rice, the all time leader in just about every receiving category.  The more important benefit for him and hopefully the takeaway from this week-long camp is that Clayton gets to be around successful players, see how they work and can apply that to his own career.  We all have differing opinions on the guy, but being in that kind of company can only help him out. 

"Every wide receiver is different, Everybody has different body types. You have big guys, you have little guys, you have slow guys, you have fast guys. But what everybody can match is effort and hard work. I think that he is at the pinnacle of where that was for a wide receiver, or for any NFL player, for that matter. His work ethic and his ability and his hard work combined to make him the greatest of all time. Even at the age of 46, to see him get out there and run routes with us, it's inspiring. I mean he's doing everything that we're doing."


Outside of the off-season between his breakout rookie year and sophomore slump, Clayton has shown a fantastic work ethic, cited by coaches and other players.  While most players are training in their home areas between OTA's and Training Camp, Clayton was not only refining his craft, but getting pointers from some of the best the game has had to offer, both present and past.  

Clayton had this to say on the experience.

"I got an invite from Larry Fitzgerald to come out here and work with [Rice] one-on-one.  It was the opportunity of a lifetime and I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I get to spend three or four days with him. We get to hang out and talk. We talk about football, how he did it back in the day. It's a wonderful experience. Since I got here yesterday I've been thrilled with every moment that I've been with him."


I'm sure the coaches are thrilled Clayton took the opportunity, and we as fans hope that something sticks with him as we enter the 2009 season.  The signing of Clayton brought a lot of heat to the Tampa Bay area.  Most people couldn't believe a receiver who hasn't displayed the ability to stay on the field could get a 5 year 20+ million dollar deal.   My point of view on the subject?  Clayton is a Buccaneer at this point.  His contract may currently be a tad on the ridiculous side, but at least for the next year, he's going to wear pewter and red.  We might as well go for broke, back him, and hope he can find that rookie form.  The pressure and expectations have been removed, with Winslow and Bryant center stage, Clayton can relax and realize the offense no longer runs through him.  Here's hoping that weight off his shoulders allows him to play more freely and become the #80 we saw flash down the field a few years back.

[Editor's Note: The information for the story came from, which has been linked above]