OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens called in wide receiver Mark Clayton for a meeting Monday morning, imparting the news that he would either be traded or released because the team was bringing in T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Hours later, the former first-round draft pick from Oklahoma had been traded to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for swapping late-round draft positions in next year’s draft.
The Rams were sorely in need of a proven wide receiver, and Clayton is expected to immediately assume a key role in their offense with Donnie Avery out for the season.
“It’s a business, you always know that going into anything,” Clayton told 24×7. “I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity. I want to take advantage of it and contribute right away.”
In five years in Baltimore, Clayton caught 234 passes for 3,116 yards and 12 touchdowns. That included a career-high season in 2006 when he registered 67 receptions for 939 yards and five touchdowns.
His production plummeted to 34 catches for 480 yards and two scores last season. He was slated to be the Ravens’ third wide receiver this season after holding off Donte’ Stallworth.
“I enjoyed it, I enjoyed the organization,” said Clayton, who ranks first in franchise history with nine 100-yard receiving games. “I have so many great relationships. I did a lot of growing up and maturing here. Now, it’s time for me to move on. I’m going to miss everybody.”
And Clayton will be missed, too, in the Ravens’ locker room.
The news came as a surprise to several players.
“That’s crazy because Mark is a great receiver, great role model, great guy to look up to,” rookie wide receiver David Reed said, “It was sad to see him go.”
“He’s a great guy, and I hope he does great things,” offensive tackle Jared Gaither said. “He’s a blessed guy. Hopefully, he’ll do well.
Clayton could possibly be joined in St. Louis soon by former Ravens fourth-round draft pick Demetrius Williams. He’s scheduled to visit the Rams today, but no deal is imminent at this time.
General manager Ozzie Newsome said it was difficult to cut ties with Clayton
“You never reach a point when it’s easy to release or trade a player you respect,” Newsome said. “Everyone here has the highest regard for Mark. He’ll help the Rams, and it’s good for him that they reached out to get him. Mark is a good person who did everything he could to help the Ravens on and off the field.
“In the end, we have to do what we think is best for the team, but letting Mark go hurts. He was first-class all the way, even when we met with him about the trade. This is a tough part of the business.”
GAITHER STATUS UNCLEAR: Offensive tackle Jared Gaither is lifting weights and has regained most of the 30 pounds he lost, bulking back up to nearly 330 pounds.
He’s still regarded as unlikely to play against the New York Jets due to a thoracic disc injury in his upper back.
Gaither hasn’t practiced since the first week of August when he began suffering back spasms and was carted off the field.
He was uncertain on when he’ll be able to resume football activities.
“It’s really hard with this type of injury, as I’ve been told,” Gaither said. “As soon as you feel better, you just want to go out there and play. I’m looking forward to that. I couldn’t tell you because that’s how the injury is. As soon as I get better, I’ll be out there. I’m making continuous progress.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t shed any light on Gaither’s status.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see where he’s at and how he feels in the next couple of days.”
While offensive tackle Oniel Cousins practiced Monday, he hasn’t been cleared by doctors for contact after incurring a concussion midway through the preseason.
Tony Moll has been starting at right tackle, but right guard Marshal Yanda has lined up at right tackle in practice with Chris Chester stepping in for him at right guard.
Gaither was down to 310 pounds during training camp, a drastic weight loss that wasn’t approved by the team after he played at 340 pounds last season.
The 6-foot-9 former University of Maryland lineman said he did that to lessen the stress on a toe injury.
“I’m getting back to my old weight,” Gaither said. “To me, that’s not really a concern. It wasn’t that hard to put the weight back on because I knew what I did to lose the weight. I’m really just trying to get healthy enough in my back. I had an injury with my toes that caused me to lose the weight. Now, that’s healthy.”
Gaither said he won’t return until his back is completely healed.
“I really just want to be as healthy as I can,” Gaither said. “My back is a big part of my life. It’s not only my career, it’s also living. I just want to make sure that I’m 100 percent healthy. I know they’ll work with me and I’ll be out there soon.”
Meanwhile, Cousins is working his way back. He said his symptoms, which included headaches and sensitivity to light and loud noises, have subsided.
However, he has to pass a neurological baseline test before he’ll be allowed to play.
“I’ve got to see the doctor,” Cousins said. “I’m out there. I feel pretty good so for. I have to make sure everything is finalized and good. I’m ready to roll.”
REED UPDATE: Harbaugh said that it’s absolutely a strong possibility that star free safety Ed Reed could be activated from the reserve physically unable to perform list as soon as the seventh week of the regular season.
The Ravens had hoped Reed could be back for the first game, but Reed wasn’t comfortable coming back that soon.
“We were really hoping he could do it,” Harbaugh said. “He made the decision in the end. I think he feels with the team interest first that’s the best thing, but he’ll be ready to go soon enough. I know we can play well when he’s not there, and look how much better we’re going to be when he gets back.”
Tom Zbikowski will start in place of the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Reed had surgery in April.
“This is my first surgery and I just wanted to make sure that I was 100 percent, and I didn’t feel 100 percent,” Reed said in a Sirius radio interview. “I still have some weaknesses. I probably could have went out there and kinda maneuvered my way around for a couple of weeks until I really got myself back together but I didn’t know if that was going to be fourth, fifth week or whatnot.
“And it wasn’t gonna do any justice to the team after they put in all that hard work this offseason and training camp for that one guy who we probably needed on the roster that was probably 110 percent and could have gave us a special teams play or maybe even a defensive play here or there.”
CODY OUT FOR FIRST GAME: Rookie nose guard Terrence “Mount” Cody said he’ll be sidelined for the Ravens’ season opener against the New York Jets after recently undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
“I’ll probably be back for the second game,” Cody said. “It’s too soon to be able to go this week.”
Cody has been out since the Ravens’ second preseason game against the Washington Redskins, and the second-round draft pick is still on crutches. In a few days, he’ll have his stitches removed.
“It’s tough for me right now,” he said. “I can’t do too much. It’s going well, I’m doing range of motion stuff and doing a good pace on the bike. I’m working it back nice and easy. It’s frustrating, but you can’t rush it and make it worse.”
TROY SMITH JOINS 49ERS: Cut by the Ravens Ravens on Saturday, quarterback Troy Smith was signed to a one-year deal by the San Francisco 49ers today as they cut Nate Davis.
The former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State wasn’t retained by the Ravens as they went with two quarterbacks on the active roster: starter Joe Flacco and backup Marc Bulger with Hunter Cantwell signed to the practice squad.
Smith is former 2007 fifth-round draft pick and has appeared in 14 games with two starts during his three-year career. He has completed 48 of 89 pass attempts for 558 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of 79.7. Smith, who is 1-1 as a starter, has also registered 109 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 29 carries.
Smith, 26, won a national title and a Heisman Trophy at Ohio State.
He played collegiately and in high school with 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.
INJURY UPDATE: Wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth (broken foot), Gaither and Cody didn’t practice.
Defensive end Paul Kruger returned to practice after sitting out Friday, but has a sprained shoulder suffered against the St. Louis Rams in the final preseason game. He could be out for the first game.
WELCOME BACK REVIS ISLAND: Pro Bowl fullback Le’Ron McClain is glad that New York Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis is going to play against Baltimore after signing his $46 million deal.
Why is that?
"I’m glad they got him back," McClain "So, there won’t be no excuses now."
QUICK HITS: Cornerback Cary Williams began his two-game suspension for violating the NFL personal conduct policy. He’s not allowed to be at the Ravens’ training complex or have contact with the team. … David Reed, a fifth-round draft pick, was relieved to make the team. “I’m very excited, it’s truly a blessing,” Reed said. “I just want to make the best of it. It was definitely an up-and-down preseason. I was going up against some good talent. These guys are awesome. I’ll try to work every day and make something happen.”