The explosiveness is back. He says he feels faster than he's ever felt. Most important, he's finally healthy again.
Knee injuries have sidelined Mark Clayton for all but seven games of the past three NFL seasons, but the former Baltimore Ravens and St. Louis Rams wide receiver says both knees are now healthy, that he's feeling "fast" and that he's "definitely ready to produce and be effective" for an NFL team.
Clayton last played for the Rams in 2011. He's an unrestricted free agent.
"I'm ready," Clayton told the Carroll County Times. "I know my body. I know what it is to go through a season and what it feels like at this point of the offseason. And at this point, I'm stronger and for sure faster than I was, which is kind of what I hang my hat on is my speed, and I feel fast. When it comes time to perform for coaches, scouts or pro personnel, they'll see speed."
Clayton, who starred collegiately at Oklahoma, was the Ravens' top pick in 2005 (22nd overall). He spent five seasons with Baltimore, catching 234 passes for 3,116 yards and 12 touchdowns, before being traded to St. Louis prior to the 2010 season.
He had 23 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns during his first four-plus games with the Rams before suffering a season-ending ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee.
He tried to come back a year later, but he missed the first eight games of the season while dealing with issues with that right knee and then played in just two games before he was placed on season-ending injured reserve due to lingering issues with the knee.
He had microfracture surgery to repair cartilage damage in the knee that December, a procedure that, combined with microfracture surgery on his left knee four months later, sidelined him for the entire 2012 season.
Clayton last played in an NFL game Nov. 20, 2011.
"It's been tough," Clayton said. "It's been heavy. Certainly deflating and depressing at times because when you're able and capable of doing something that you're passionate about and love to do and because of injuries you become limited physically, that sucks."
But Clayton, who said he's run the 40-yard dash in as fast as 4.36 seconds in recent weeks, feels he's finally ready to return to the field.
He'll participate in Oklahoma's Pro Day Wednesday, running routes for and catching passes from former Sooners quarterback and 2013 NFL draft prospect Landry Jones.
As far as what he still feels like he can provide to an NFL team, Clayton said: "Certainly somebody that can stretch the field and just somebody that can consistently make plays week-in and week-out."
But he is 30. He is coming off three major knee surgeries. And he does realize, based on those two variables, that it could be tough to get an opportunity, although he did emphasize that he's "very optimistic."
"I expect it to be trying and certainly not an easy process because that's just how it is," Clayton said. "It's the league. It takes hard work and it takes things out of your control to fall into place just to get an opportunity. But a lot of prayer's gone into this, a lot of work's gone into this and I'm very optimistic because of that work that's been put in.
"And when I step on the field, what will be seen, I feel like, based on my experience and where I've been, it'll be a quality [showing] for a scout or coach or whoever's watching."