NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Being a free agent, Michael Clayton isn’t overly concerned about taking part in Eli Manning’s lockout passing camp without a shred of injury insurance.
Quite the contrary. The 28-year-old who spent part of last season in the UFL before joining the New York Giants sees the 90-minute sessions as an opportunity to get a jump on things once the NFL and its players reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Call it an edge, something Clayton probably will need to make the Giants (10-6) if there is a season.
Clayton has been a constant at the passing camp arranged by Manning at Hoboken High School. Nine players attended Tuesday’s workout, the first this week and the fourth overall since the lockout was reinstated by a federal appeals court ruling on April 29.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” Clayton said. “I just focus on the task at hand. When it (football) comes back, hopefully we’ll all be ready for it.”
Despite having no defenders to compete against, Clayton said the workouts are valuable. The patterns being run are the same ones the players would use in offseason optional team activity. It also gives him more repetitions than he would get if the entire team was assembled.
Working with Manning is another plus. During a normal camp, Manning would be throwing balls to Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith. Clayton would be lucky to get one from the 2008 Super Bowl MVP.
There are frustrations, though, the primary one being the uncertainty about the upcoming season.
“It is a little bit scary,” Clayton said. “This is our livelihood. Not just for the players, but for many people. Yeah, football players, but also stadium workers and people who get involved with the games.”
Clayton has not taken out any insurance to cover himself in the event he is hurt during the passing camp, noting his insurance is being provided “by the man upstairs.” His health insurance and that for his wife and three children comes from a COBRA policy.
The hardest thing now is being patient with the negotiations being handled by the players’ legal team.
A first-round draft pick of Tampa Bay in 2004, Clayton said the owners have an agenda and “they are going for it.”
“Everybody is going to suffer,” Clayton said. “They have the power. This is a league created by them, so at the end of the day you have to respect what they do, and you have to respect that we are trying to defend ourselves. It’s a battle and, unfortunately, a lot of people are affected.
“At the end of the day, I think that the powers that be will never let this game go away,” he added. “Whether it’s (the season) late or whether it’s delayed, it’s going to come back, and when it does, the world will be more excited about football than it was before it left.”
Clayton and Manning were joined at the passing camp by backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels; tight end Kevin Boss; receivers Darius Reynaud, Duke Calhoun, Samuel Giguere and Victor Cruz; and offensive tackle David Diehl, the 311-pounder who surprised many with his pass-catching ability.
“I’ll tell you what, Diehl has some pretty smooth hands,” Cruz said. “For a big guy, he has smooth hands and smooth feet. I won’t want him to be a tight end. I’ll keep him at tackle.”
Cruz, who is coming off a hamstring injury, said Manning’s tutelage has been huge.
“He let’s me know not only where to be on certain routes but where he’s looking to put the ball, and the depth of the routes,” said Cruz, who lives only 10 minutes from the high school in a trendy town across the Hudson River from New York City. “It’s coming along. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the playbook and our offense.”
Cruz also isn’t worried about being hurt in the passing camp, noting he is young enough to still be covered under his mother’s insurance policy. His approach to the lockout is to remain positive.
“The fan in me tells me it’s too much money involved for this not to get done,” Cruz said. “The athlete in me prays that something gets done because I want to get back out there. I want to test the field. I haven’t had a helmet on my head in months. I’m just dying to get that back on. Hopefully this comes to an end and we can get out there and play some football again.”
Are you jonesing for some pro football? Sound off in the comments below…
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)