The Rams waited until the last possible day to make their decision, but Mark Clayton has finally been activated from the PUP list and added to the regular season roster.
When the Rams re-signed Clayton and placed him on the PUP, he was the eighth receiver in house and seemed like a ticking time bomb for someone on the roster. In particular, the Rams' struggling young rookie slot receivers -- Austin Pettis and Greg Salas -- seemed particularly at risk, as though the two might be sharing a single roster spot and a single place in the Rams offense. After a string of season-ending injuries to the position (Danny Amendola in Week 1, Salas in Week 8), we dno't have to worry about whose place Clayton will take.
Instead, we have to wonder whether he's healthy enough to contribute.
Clayton has been practicing with the Rams on and off for the past three weeks, a benefit of being designated Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) at the beginning of the year, rather than being placed on Injured Reserve (IR). The latter ends your season and all association with the team. While you can still collect a paycheck and still rehab with the team's training staff, once you're IR'ed you aren't allowed back on the practice field.
Last week, Clayton reported some soreness in his achilles tendon, a residual effect of putting his legs through NFL reps after such a long downtime. Rehab has been a long, hard road for the Rams receiver, and until he gets on the field, runs routes in earnest and gets hit in earnest, we won't know if he's all the way back. For what it's worth, Jim Thomas told us yesterday that "Clayton says the Achilles tendon feels much better and he's ready to play."
One thing we can hope for sooner rather than later is for Clayton to reestablish the immediate chemistry he built with Sam Bradford, chemistry established in just a handful of practices. He caught 10 of 16 passes thrown his way in week one, and went on to build the best catch percentage (60.5%) of his career in his limited time in a Rams uniform.
Practice time and chemistry building with Bradford is in short supply right now, though, especially with another hungry fish in the pond in Brandon Lloyd. Sam was reportedly limited in practice today, and is still considered "day to day" for this Sunday's reunion with Pat Shurmur, Colt McCoy and the Browns. My guess is he'll start, though.
Now the question is, who does he throw to, and can they help the Rams get past that invisible shield at the goal line?