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Ravens Returner Kaelin Clay Makes A Promise On Ball Security


The Ravens have had trouble finding punt returners that hold onto the ball this season.

Asa Jackson lost the job after a couple fumbles in the preseason. Jeremy Ross lost it after fumbles in two of the team's last three games.

Enter sixth-round rookie Kaelin Clay, who the Ravens signed off Detroit's practice squad this week.

The Ravens like Clay's electric return style and productivity. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Utah product led the Pac-12 and finished fourth in the nation with an average of 15 yards per punt return. He also had three punt returns for touchdowns.

However, Clay comes with a fumble history of his own that is … unique.

During a big game against rival Oregon, Clay scored what should have been a 78-yard touchdown. Only problem was he dropped the ball as he started to celebrate – just before he reached the end zone. The Ducks picked the ball up and returned it all the way back down the field for a touchdown.

"It won't happen," Clay said. "I promise you, it won't happen."

Clay said the video clip was featured on ESPN's "Not Top 10" for 16 straight weeks. He said he was "famous for a long time," but not in a good way.

It happened despite Utah coaches' constant harping to hold onto the ball until the play was over, and then hand it to the referees just in case.

"Little things. It's attention to details," Clay said.

"I've learned a lot from that play, not just on the field but off the field. Things aren't going to go the way you want them to go. It's how you bounce back and how you can get through everything. I'm proud of myself for getting through that situation."

The following week, Clay scored a game-winning touchdown against Stanford. He didn't react at all as he went into the end zone, instead just went straight to the referee to hand him the ball.

Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg said he hasn't discussed that play, specifically, with Clay. But in discussing ball security with Ravens players before even meeting Clay, Clay's play was used as an example.

Still, Rosburg scouted Clay and wanted the Ravens to add him to their rookie class when he went undrafted.

"I like him a lot," Rosburg said. "I evaluated all of his tape; I watched him play. I was very impressed by his college video, and his preseason reps that he got in Tampa were also good.

"It's different though in regular-season football games than it is preseason. It's not the same kind of football. When he's in there, we're going to have him ready to be in there. We're not going to put him in there because he's here."

Clay said he's talked to both Head Coach John Harbaugh and Rosburg and they both told him they believe in him and just want him to field the ball cleanly and be smart. Clay said he's had a good week of practice this week, and feels like he could immediately jump into the punt returner role.

"I dropped two in warmups and that was it," he said. "I had to get them out. Coach Rosburg, I don't think he even saw me drop them."

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