Knee injury ends Clayton's season

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday placed third-year wide receiver Michael Clayton on injured reserve, ending a 2006 campaign that marked his second consecutive disappointing season.

Clayton suffered a left knee injury in Sunday's loss at Pittsburgh. While Tampa Bay officials have not disclosed the severity of the injury, the team did announce it will not require surgery, but is serious enough to sideline Clayton for more than a month.

The third-year veteran finished the season with 33 catches for 356 yards and one touchdown, appearing in 12 games, with nine starts.

To replace Clayton on the roster, Tampa Bay signed veteran free agent wide receiver and return specialist Mark Jones, who has played with the Bucs in the past. Clayton is the third starter the Bucs have placed on the injured reserve list in the past two weeks, joining left guard Dan Buenning and standout defensive end Simeon Rice.

Once again, as was the case in 2005, Clayton struggled this season to regain the form of his outstanding 2004 rookie season. The team's first-round choice in 2004, Clayton registered 80 receptions for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns. But a spate of injuries in 2005, including knee and wrist problems, limited the LSU star to just 32 catches and 372 yards that season, and he failed to score a touchdown.

In fact, Clayton has scored just one touchdown in his past 26 games.

Clayton, 24, rededicated himself this spring, worked hard to overcome his injuries, and even signed a "contract" with coach Jon Gruden, detailing what was expected of him in terms of conditioning and work ethic. Injuries slowed him once again, though, and he struggled for much of the season. Ironically, the loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday was one of his best games, as he had four catches for 57 yards.

In 42 career appearances, Clayton has 145 catches for 1,921 yards and eight touchdowns.

Jones, 26, was a seventh-round choice of the Bucs in 2004. He was with the Bucs for nine games earlier this season, and played in four contests, returning 13 punts for an 8.4-yard average. Jones likely will be used again as a punt returner.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.