It's decision day for the Rams and wide receiver Mark Clayton, and with the team's numbers dwindling at that position, the timing couldn't be better for Clayton's return.
With Greg Salas out for the season with a broken leg, the Rams are down to Brandon Lloyd and Austin Pettis as their only healthy options at wide receiver.
Where's everybody else? Danario Alexander has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, and there's no guarantee he'll be back this week.
"We can't really rush anything," Alexander said. "We're just going to take it day-by-day. I tried to run last Wednesday on it, and I thought I did pretty well until the end. It kind of bit me a little bit. So I don't want that to happen again."
But Alexander is eager to get back on the field and said he's doing everything possible to do so.
Brandon Gibson suffered a quad injury against Arizona but finished the game with the leg wrapped. Although the injury is not thought to be serious, it's unlikely he'll be 100 percent for this week's game in Cleveland, and he could miss some practice time this week.
Dominique Curry, known for his special teams play, has been getting some work at wide receiver. Over the past few weeks, he has taken a couple of snaps at wideout in games, but he's still raw and learning the position.
"I'm ready to help the team as much as possible," Curry said. "With these injuries that we're getting, we just have to stick together as a receiving corps and pull each other through."
Which brings us back to Clayton. His three-week practice window coming off the physically unable to perform list — more commonly known as the PUP list — ends today. By 3 p.m. the Rams must decide whether to activate him to the 53-man roster, put him on the injured reserve list, or release him.
All signs point to the Rams activating Clayton, meaning he could play Sunday in Cleveland. But they want to take one more look at him in practice today. Clayton began training camp on the PUP list because his rehab wasn't quite complete from a season-ending knee injury in October 2010.
The knee has held up fine, but he experienced some Achilles tendon soreness once he started practicing last month, which has slowed his progress.
"I feel good," Clayton said. "I feel really the best I've felt in the last three weeks. My body's getting adjusted to everything and balancing itself out. The Achilles is getting a lot better. I've been able to really be explosive off of that side now."
Does he feel like he's healthy enough to play Sunday?
"Yes, certainly," Clayton said. "Let's go."
Even with a new playbook under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Clayton feels he could play no matter where he was asked to line up: split end, flanker, or the slot.
"I've had to kind of bounce around through positions ... just kind of filling in for guys as we went through practice," Clayton said. "So I've got a decent feel for all the positions really. I'll be ready."
Clayton played flanker, also known as the Z position, most of the time last year before his Game 5 knee injury in Detroit. But he played the slot his first two seasons in the league for Baltimore, so he could pick up some of the slack there following Salas' injury.
"I've been there before," Clayton said. "I'm sure I could definitely get adjusted to it. Right now, I'd just like to play, and wherever you have me go that's where I'll be."
If it's not Clayton, then Pettis will be in the slot in place of Salas.
Salas' injury also leaves the Rams with only one "experienced" punt returner on the roster in Pettis. As a bit of insurance, the team added wide receiver/return man David Gilreath to the practice squad Tuesday. Gilreath, a rookie from Wisconsin, spent training camp with the Indianapolis Colts this summer. To make room for Gilreath, wide receiver Kris Adams was released from the practice squad.
Help at linebacker
Also on Tuesday, the Rams worked out free-agent linebackers David Nixon and Chase Blackburn. With injuries to Bryan Kehl (ankle) and Josh Hull (hamstring), the Rams have only four healthy linebackers on the roster. So they will probably sign at least one linebacker in time for today's practice, giving them some special teams help against the Browns.
Nixon, a third-year pro from BYU, spent five weeks on the Rams' practice squad and then four weeks on the active roster last season. He appeared in one game, last Dec. 12, against New Orleans. Blackburn spent his first six NFL seasons (2005-10) with the New York Giants, including two seasons ('07 and '08) with Steve Spagnuolo as his defensive coordinator.
He was Giants special teams captain last season, and was primarily known for his special teams plays, but Blackburn also made 17 starts during his time with New York.