Baltimore Ravens: Jameel McClain

The Baltimore Ravens have $4.496 million in salary-cap space, the sixth-lowest figure among NFL teams.

McKinnie
McKinnie
Pollard
It might surprise you that nearly 5 percent of the Ravens' cap is being taken up by players no longer on the roster. More than $6 million of cap space is being eaten up by the likes of the Tennessee Titans leading tackler, the New York Giants starting weakside linebacker and an unemployed former Pro Bowl left tackle.

This "dead money" -- cap space being used on players no longer on the team -- is created when players are released or traded after June 1, the start of the new league year. The prorated bonus is carried over to the following season.

That is why Titans safety Bernard Pollard ($1.5 million), Giants linebacker Jameel McClain ($1.2 million) and free agent offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie ($1 million) still count against the Ravens' 2014 cap.

The Ravens are paying the price for missing on three free-agent signings from last year. Safety Michael Huff ($1 million), fullback Vonta Leach ($580,000) and defensive lineman Marcus Spears ($300,00) have combined for nearly $2 million in dead money.

The Ravens are carrying $6.336 million in dead money on this year's cap. That ranks as the 12th-most in the NFL. It is not as good as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($903,000 in dead money) but it is not as bad as the Dallas Cowboys ($23.5 million).
Inside linebacker Jameel McClain's four-year run as a Baltimore Ravens starter is officially over.

McClain reached an agreement with the New York Giants on Thursday night, two weeks after the Ravens cut him. The Ravens saved $3.2 million by releasing McClain and they still have a void at middle linebacker.

The Giants' agreement with McClain was first reported by Mike Silver of NFL.com, and McClain confirmed it on Twitter:

An undrafted player, McClain has never ranked among the most talented linebackers, but he prides himself on outworking others. At inside linebacker, the Ravens are hoping to re-sign Daryl Smith and are banking on Arthur Brown stepping up to a starting role. But general manager Ozzie Newsome left open the possibility that McClain may return.

Here's the rest of your wake-up caw ...
  • After signing his new deal with the Ravens, receiver-returner Jacoby Jones provided an unexpected update on running back Ray Rice to reporters. "I saw Ray [Rice] – he looks like he lost a little bit a weight, like he’s ready to roll," Jones said. "He’s looking fit.” In case you missed it, Jones took less money to remain with the Ravens.
  • Jeromy Miles, one of the Ravens' core special teams players last season, reached a one-year deal with the Ravens, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan. In his first season with the Ravens, Miles finished third on the team with eight special teams tackles despite not playing in the first four games. He joined the Ravens after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals.
  • James Ihedigbo, the Ravens' starting strong safety last season, left his free-agent visit with the Lions without a contract but he told the Detroit Free Press that it's very possible he signs soon. He apparently needs to get his agent situation squared away.
Alex MackAP Photo/David RichardCleveland Browns center Alex Mack is the top free agent in the AFC North.

It's not a particularly strong free-agent class in the AFC North, although the top ones rank among the best in the NFL.

The free-agent group in the division took a hit when tight end Dennis Pitta, outside linebacker Jason Worilds and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson all signed before the official start of free agency.

So who's left? ESPN's four team reporters in the division -- Scott Brown, Coley Harvey, Jamison Hensley and Pat McManamon -- compiled a list of the top 15 free agents in the AFC North.

The Baltimore Ravens have the most free agents on this list with eight players. The Cleveland Browns have two of the top three free agents in the division, and the Cincinnati Bengals have two of the top five. The Pittsburgh Steelers placed one free agent in the top 10.

Here are the top 15 free agents in the AFC North:

1. Alex Mack, Browns center: At 28, the two-time Pro Bowler is in the prime of his career. Mack was so coveted by the Browns that they placed a $10 million transition tag on him. It will be interesting whether another team can pry him away from Cleveland.

2. Michael Johnson, Bengals defensive end: He was better in 2012 (11.5 sacks) than he was in 2013 (3.5 sacks). Still, his size, athleticism and age (27) will make him one of the most coveted pass-rushers this offseason.

3. T.J. Ward, Browns safety: Considered one of the top 10 safeties in the NFL, Ward will draw interest from teams looking to get more physical in the secondary. He makes an impact on run defense and has improved in coverage.

4. Eugene Monroe, Ravens offensive tackle: Some believe Monroe is the top offensive tackle in free agency, but ESPN's Bill Polian has five tackles ranked ahead of him. His athleticism and upside will command a big-money contract even though he's never been to a Pro Bowl.

5. Anthony Collins, Bengals offensive tackle: He is an underrated left tackle who didn't allow a sack last season. The question mark with Collins is how he'll play as a full-time starter. He made seven starts last season and has 25 starts in six seasons in Cincinnati.

6. Jacoby Jones, Ravens receiver-returner: He was one of the top playmakers in the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl run, and he ranked among the top five returners in the league last season. Jones is inconsistent and one-dimensional as a wide receiver, but he made a lot of clutch plays for the Ravens in two seasons.

7. Art Jones, Ravens defensive end: His impact as a run defender and interior pass-rusher makes him one of the top defensive tackles available. Teams, though, have to wonder whether he'll be the same type of player without Haloti Ngata drawing double-teams next to him.

8. Daryl Smith, Ravens linebacker: He was quietly one of the NFL's top comeback stories. In his first season with the Ravens, Smith led the team with 123 tackles and finished with five sacks, three interceptions, 19 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. His age (32 this month) could be a drawback.

9. Michael Oher, Ravens offensive tackle: His play never reached the expectations placed on a first-round pick. Oher is a throwback type of player whose strengths are durability and toughness. The biggest knocks against him are mental mistakes and pass protection.

10. Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers wide receiver: He is almost 27, brings a lot of quickness and is coming off a season where he dropped just two passes (according to ESPN Stats & Information). What works against Sanders is the fact that he's never had more than 740 yards receiving in a season and averaged a career-low 11 yards per catch last season.

11. Jameel McClain, Ravens inside linebacker: He isn't among the most talented linebackers, but he prides himself on outworking others. Even though he came back from a spinal cord contusion last season, some teams will be wary of a player who had such a serious injury.

12. James Ihedigbo, Ravens safety: Known more for his special-teams play, Ihedigbo finished as the team's second-leading tackler. He'll try to find a team that will give him an opportunity to play defense now that the Ravens moved Matt Elam to his strong safety spot.

13. Ziggy Hood, Steelers defensive lineman: He never became the difference-maker the Steelers envisioned when they drafted him in the first round, but it would be unfair to call him a bust. One of the strongest players on the team, Hood lost his starting job to Cameron Heyward last season.

14. Corey Graham, Ravens cornerback: He was a starter on the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl team and led Baltimore with four interceptions last season. Graham has proved to be a dependable nickelback, but he doesn't have the size or speed to be a full-time starter.

15. Brett Keisel, Steelers defensive lineman: He had four sacks last season and 26 quarterback pressures, third most on the Steelers, despite missing four games and playing sparingly in another because of a nagging foot injury. His age (35) will scare away a lot of teams.
Inside linebacker Jameel McClain will meet with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday, according to the NFL Network.

This marks McClain's first visit since being cut by the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday. The Ravens created $3.2 million by cutting the four-year starter. McClain reportedly has other visits scheduled.

At inside linebacker, the Ravens have made it a priority to re-sign Daryl Smith and are hoping Arthur Brown steps up in a starting role.

Here's the rest of your wake-up caw:
  • The Ravens are unlikely to get a deal done with offensive tackle Eugene Monroe before the start of free agency next week, according to The Carroll County Times. This isn't a surprise because Monroe was expected to test the market. He could end up returning to Baltimore.
  • Re-signing Monroe remains the Ravens' best option at left tackle, according to John Eisenberg of the team's official website. "Another free agent would be similarly expensive and not necessarily better," Eisenberg wrote. "The best starting-caliber tackles are liable to be off the draft board by the time the Ravens pick. [Michael] Oher was better on the right side. [Kelechi] Osemele is coming off back surgery."
  • Clifton Brown, of Comcast SportsNet, wonders if free-agent wide receiver Golden Tate is on the Ravens' radar. "Tate could be a nice fit, joining wide receiver Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta as Joe Flacco’s primary targets," Brown wrote. "However both Tate and the Ravens will have options. The Ravens may target another free agent wide receiver like Hakeem Nicks, or perhaps they will draft a receiver in the first round."
Let's take a look at the Baltimore Ravens' Twitter mailbag:

 
The Baltimore Ravens made the right decision to release fullback Vonta Leach and Jameel McClain on Thursday. The Ravens needed the nearly $5 million in salary cap room, and they weren't going to be relaying on either one for significant roles.

Leach
McClain
Leach and McClain weren't the most talented players on the Ravens. They weren't the biggest playmakers. But they will be missed because they were among the toughest.

Both were self-made players in this league, going from undrafted rookies into NFL starters. They were physical players who wanted to prove themselves on every play and hit.

"Both of these men helped the Ravens win a lot of games and the Super Bowl championship," coach John Harbaugh said. "We are thankful for all they gave us."

McClain, 28, beat the odds after a challenging childhood. Growing up in Philadelphia, McClain was homeless for periods of time with his family.

He eventually earned a scholarship at Syracuse and faced more obstacles in the NFL. Last season, he returned to football 10 months after suffering a spinal cord contusion.

"There is so much to like about Jameel, the player and the person," Harbaugh said. "He's a true leader, and his story from rookie free agent to NFL starter is one of the best in the league. You give him so much credit for finding a way to become the player he is. He's one of those guys who gets the most out of his ability. He has a lot of football left, and maybe, that could be with the Ravens down the line."

Leach, 32, is one of the last punishing fullbacks, a position that has started to become extinct in the pass-happy NFL. It took time for Leach to convince teams he could play in the league. He was released by the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints before becoming the NFL's top fullback with the Houston Texans.

After Leach joined the Ravens in 2011, it didn't take long for the player nicknamed "The Hammer" and "The Coke Machine" to make his presence known. He blew up 325-pound nose tackle Casey Hampton and pancaked Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis.

"He's the big, physical fullback you like to have when you pound the ball and are on special teams," Harbaugh said. "And, who doesn't like Vonta? He's fun to be around, and his personality helped lift the energy at a lot of practices. People know we like to be physically dominating, and when we did that in recent years, Vonta was a big part of that."

The Ravens didn't dismiss the possibility of bringing back either Leach or McClain. But the Ravens won't need Leach if they're going away from that old-school, I-formation offense. The Ravens also won't need McClain if Daryl Smith re-signs and Arthur Brown steps up into a starting role.

It's tough to part with these players because of what they represent. But it's an easy decision based on the Ravens' plans for 2014.
The Baltimore Ravens plan to release fullback Vonta Leach and inside linebacker Jameel McClain, sources told The Baltimore Sun.

Both have been projected as the two most likely salary-cap casualties since the end of the season, and I wrote about these moves on the blog earlier Thursday. The Ravens will save $4.9 million off the cap by cutting Leach ($1.75 savings) and McClain ($3.2).

The team has yet to announce the moves. Leach tweeted "Thanks for the memories" on Thursday afternoon, along with photos of him with Ray Lewis and Ray Rice.

Leach, a three-time Pro Bowl fullback, re-signed at a reduced salary last year before being phased out of the offense during the season. He only participated in 20 percent of the offensive snaps in 2013 as the Ravens went to a three-receiver, spread attack.

McClain made an admirable comeback from a spinal cord contusion in 2013 after taking a $1.5 million salary cut during the summer. He finished with 50 tackles and one forced fumble in 10 starts last season, but he doesn't fit in the Ravens' plans. At inside linebacker, the Ravens are trying to re-sign Daryl Smith and they are hoping second-round pick Arthur Brown steps into a starting role this season.

The Ravens are now projected to have $27 million in cap room.

Cap increase may save Ravens punter

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It seems like the NFL's 2014 salary cap keeps increasing with each passing day, which could turn out to be good news for Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch. According to ESPN's John Clayton, this year's cap will rise to $132 million per team. That's about $9 million more than it was in 2013 and around $6 million more than projected earlier this winter.

Koch
Koch
The increased room could save Koch, who has been considered one of the Ravens' top three candidates to get released for salary-cap reasons. Cutting Koch would free up $1.6 million in cap space.

Koch's $2.2 million salary is still high for a punter, especially one who ranked 13th in average this past season. But he's been one of the most consistent punters over the years. His career gross punting average (44.8 yards) and net punting average (38.6) both rank first in Ravens history. His 39 punts inside the 20-yard line since the 2010 season are the second most in the league.

Now, with a projected $22.1 million in cap space, the Ravens can afford to carry Koch's $2.8 million cap number, which ranks 10th on the team. His cap number also is the eighth highest among punters in 2014.

The boost in the cap may not benefit the other cap casualty candidates on the Ravens. Baltimore can gain nearly $5 million in cap room by releasing linebacker Jameel McClain and fullback Vonta Leach.

McClain is almost a certainty to get cut because the Ravens create $3.2 million in cap space. He made an admirable comeback from a spinal cord contusion, but he doesn't fit in the Ravens' plans. At inside linebacker, the Ravens are trying to re-sign Daryl Smith and they are hoping second-round pick Arthur Brown steps into a starting role this season.

Leach, who represents $1.75 million in cap savings, is expected to get released because of his reduced role on offense. There has been speculation that Leach will return because he played under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak in Houston. But the Ravens need to get more playing time for fullback Kyle Juszczyk, a fourth-round pick from a year ago, and they could run more formations with two tight ends than two running backs.

Last March, the Ravens only released two players: safety Bernard Pollard and guard Bobbie Williams.
The Baltimore Ravens' team page continues to a take a position-by-position review of the team's 2013 season and give a sneak peek of what lies ahead:

LINEBACKERS

Under contract (2014 salary-cap number): OLB Terrell Suggs ($12.4 million), ILB Jameel McClain ($4.4M), OLB Elvis Dumervil ($3.375M), OLB Courtney Upshaw ($1.444M), OLB Arthur Brown ($807,780), OLB John Simon ($591,413), OLB Pernell McPhee ($681,140).

2014 free agents: ILB Daryl Smith (unrestricted), ILB Albert McClellan (restricted), ILB Josh Bynes (exclusive rights), OLB Adrian Hamilton (exclusive rights), OLB D.J. Bryant (exclusive rights).

Smith
The good: Smith made everyone forget that Ray Lewis was gone. He led the Ravens with 123 tackles and finished with five sacks, three interceptions, 19 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Suggs and Dumervil combined for 19.5 sacks, which was nearly half of the team's total. McClain made an admirable comeback from a spinal cord contusion and recorded 52 tackles in 10 games.

The bad: Suggs disappeared in the second half of the season, contributing 20 tackles and one sack in his final eight games. Dumervil was equally non-effective with nine tackles and one sack in his last six games. Brown was projected to start as a rookie, but he was limited to passing downs.

The money: The Ravens want to sign Suggs to an extension to reduce his $12.4 million cap hit and increase his chances of retiring as a Raven. It'll be interesting to see whether the Ravens can re-sign Smith. He exceeded expectations but he'll turn 32 in March. The Ravens are expected to cut McClain because they can free up $3.2 million in cap space.

Draft priority: Low, at this point. If the Ravens can't reach an extension with Suggs and decide to release him, the need for an edge rusher increases significantly. But right now, linebacker is a low priority. The Ravens are banking on Brown to step up and fill McClain's starting spot. There is solid depth (and quality special teams play) from the likes of Bynes, McClellan and Simon.

Decision looming on Terrell Suggs?

December, 31, 2013
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Terrell Suggs' second-half disappearance and high salary-cap number have prompted questions about his future with the Baltimore Ravens.

Releasing Suggs would make sense financially because the Ravens would create $7.8 million in cap space. Some would argue Suggs isn't worth his $7.8 million salary in 2014 -- second only to Haloti Ngata's $8.5 million salary -- after making 20 tackles and one sack in his final eight games.

Suggs
In my opinion, Suggs remains with the Ravens. A six-time Pro Bowl linebacker, he's considered a leader in the locker room and looked like one of the league's best defensive players in the first half of the season. Suggs also showed his commitment to last year's Super Bowl team when he made a remarkable return from a torn Achilles. In the end, parting ways with Suggs would further deplete what was an underachieving pass rush.

Do I believe Suggs will be back under the same contract? That's the key question. Reworking his deal would lessen his cap hit and increase his chances of finishing his career with the Ravens.

The team has some leverage here considering Suggs is 31 and fewer teams are going to invest a lot of money in pass-rushers over the age of 30. Plus, there are legitimate concerns about Suggs' endurance (his snaps declined in the final month of the season) and lack of impact plays down the stretch. A new deal seems possible in this situation.

The Ravens are going to need to create cap room in order to sign their own free agents (like tight end Dennis Pitta and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe) as well as a few other additions (perhaps a new center or wide receiver). Baltimore is $14.5 million under the projected $126.3 million salary cap with 37 players currently under contract.

The more realistic candidates for being cap cuts are in the second tier of cap numbers: linebacker Jameel McClain, fullback Vonta Leach and punter Sam Koch. Releasing those three players would create $6.55 million in salary-cap space.

McClain made an admirable comeback from a spinal cord contusion, but the team would get $3.2 million by releasing him. It's almost certain that the Ravens will part ways with Leach ($1.75 million savings if cut), who was phased out of the offense. And the Ravens may feel a $2.2 million salary is too much for a punter like Koch (who ranked 13th in average), and they can gain $1.6 million in cap room by releasing him. Defensive end Chris Canty ($1.8 million) is another option, but the Ravens are already going to need to replace one starter (free agent Art Jones) on the defensive line.

Outside of Suggs, no one else among the top tier of salary-cap numbers are in danger of getting cut. Ngata has the largest cap number in 2014 at $16 million, but the Ravens would only save $1 million by releasing him. The same with running back Ray Rice, who has a $8.75 cap number but represents no savings if cut.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- It took 10 months for Jameel McClain to get back on the field. It took only one game to convince the Baltimore Ravens that he's their best option at weakside linebacker.

McClain
McClain will start over Josh Bynes for Sunday's game at the Cleveland Browns, defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Thursday.

When Bynes was out with a finger infection, McClain started in his place on Oct. 20, his first game since suffering a spinal cord contusion last December. Now that Bynes is healthy enough to play again, the Ravens made the decision to stick with McClain, who had started the past three seasons.

"It's just a chance for me to go out there and prove myself," McClain said.

In his first game back, McClain was the team's third-leading tackler with five and played just over half of the defensive snaps (30). He didn't have a missed tackle.

Pees said McClain is "close" to playing at the same level he did last season.

"He was tentative I think sometimes because he hadn't hit anybody," Pees said. "I would guess it's going to take him a couple of weeks. But he'll be even better this week."

The move means Bynes will have a bigger role on special teams. He made the biggest stop on coverage teams last season when he tackled returner Ted Ginn on the last play of the Super Bowl.

McClain's impact will come in run defense, which has been a problem area for the Ravens recently. The Ravens have allowed 140 or more rushing yards in three of their past four games.

Baltimore's run defense has been a barometer of the team's success this season. In three wins, the Ravens have held teams to 60.3 yards rushing. In four losses, they have been gashed for 137.2 yards on the ground.
If you want a full transcript of this week's Baltimore Ravens' chat, you can click right here. If you want some highlights, simply continue reading ...

Philip (Maryland): So, what's up with the running game this year? Ray Rice looks like he's still hurt. I mean, even Bernard Pierce is taking away some of his receptions, something no other running back has ever done since Rice got there. On top of that, the Ravens just have no run blocking scheme that works, mainly runs up the middle. Are we seeing just how important center Matt Birk was to this offensive line?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Even though Rice says he's at full strength, I'm not buying it. There's something "off" with him this year. It's going to be a challenge to run the ball with two banged-up backs (Bernard Pierce has a hamstring injury) and three offensive linemen who are dealing with injuries (Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele and Michael Oher). Not going to get much push off the line that way.

Mayer (New Jersey): Are the Ravens planning on doing anything to shore up the defensive line? We hear a lot about their offensive struggles, but the defense's inability to stop the run keeps the offense from getting into rhythm (for example only four drives in the first half) and it tires out the rest of the defense. It seems like the time of possession battle is something that the Ravens need to seriously upgrade.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Haloti Ngata has a strained elbow, and Chris Canty is dealing with a groin injury. The hope is the Ravens run defense will get better when those two starters are healthier. Backup Marcus Spears has also missed time with a knee injury.

Alex (Utah): Did Jameel McClain played better last week than Josh Bynes have in the season?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): McClain was impressive considering he hadn't played in 10 months. He didn't make any impact plays but he is better than Bynes at this point.

Boh (Annapolis, MD): In your opinion who is the better No. 2 wide receiver, Jacoby Jones or Marlon Brown?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Jacoby Jones has impressed me with the way he's run routes. Much better than last year. I also like Brown's potential. That's why I advocated going three-wide and spreading out defenses. So, I thought the Ravens had the right strategy going against the Steelers. Use Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown. They're among your best 11 players, so why don't use them at the same time?

Alex (Utah): What's your Ravens Mount Rushmore as of today?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed and Art Modell.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Eight years after watching New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi return from a minor stroke in the same year, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees watched another one of his players make what he described as an "amazing" comeback.

McClain
Jameel McClain was the Ravens' starting inside linebacker Sunday in his first game back since suffering a spinal cord contusion 10 months ago. He finished as the team's third-leading tackler in Pittsburgh with five on defense and one on special teams.

"For a guy to be out 10 months and come back and practice three days and play 28 plays in that game, amazing," Pees said. "This guy had been told a few months back he was never going to play football again. So, to mentally stay that into it and that in tune and have no missed assignments in that game whatsoever ... You could tell he was a little tentative maybe in taking on some blocks at times, but I don't think it was because he was scared. He just hadn't been out there doing it. It was more that than I didn't see anything backing off. That's an amazing feat to me.”

Josh Bynes, who had replaced McClain, couldn't play against the Steelers because he had surgery on his infected finger. So, McClain replaced Bynes last Sunday and played 30 of the Ravens' 59 snaps.

Bynes is expected to return to practice after the bye, so the Ravens have to decide whether to stick with McClain or go back to Bynes as the starting inside linebacker.

"I thought he played a good game," coach John Harbaugh said of McClain. "Given the circumstances, [he] probably played really well. [He] hadn't played for a long time, hadn't practiced much, was throw into a situation because of Josh's [Bynes] situation where he had to play quite a few snaps. He did a solid job, and he's only going to get better from here on out. He came out of it healthy, so that's important. He'll really benefit from the next couple days of work.”
PITTSBURGH -- Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain is officially active, which means he'll play in his first game since suffering a spinal cord contusion Dec. 9.

McClain
McClain had been on the physically unable to perform list until Saturday and didn't practice before this past week. He had been a full participant in practice all week.

It's unknown whether McClain will start for the Ravens. Josh Bynes, who had started the first six games at inside linebacker, had surgery on his infected finger Thursday and was ruled out for the game.

Here is the complete inactive list for the Ravens:

ILB Josh Bynes (finger), NT Terrence Cody (knee), OL Jah Reid, C Ryan Jensen (foot), OT Bryant McKinnie, DL DeAngelo Tyson and WR Brandon Stokley (groin).

How much will Jameel McClain play?

October, 19, 2013
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Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain, who was activated off the physically unable to perform list Saturday, will play against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens wouldn't have used a spot on the 53-man roster just to have him inactive Sunday. The real question is whether McClain starts in Pittsburgh. A player told me Friday that it was quite timely that McClain was able to come back on the same week that Josh Bynes, who replaced McClain in the starting lineup this year, was declared out with a finger infection.

McClain was a starter for the Ravens for the past three seasons and he had full practices all week. The concern is he hasn't played in a game since suffering a spinal-cord contusion 10 months ago.

My guess is the Ravens ease McClain back in a platoon situation. McClain can play on running downs, which is his strength, and rookie second-round pick Arthur Brown can replace him on passing situations.

If McClain can play more, that's a bonus for the Ravens. But the Ravens didn't rely on Bynes to play every snap on defense last Sunday. Bynes was on the field 55 plays (81 percent of the defensive snaps) and Brown was on the field for the other 19 percent.

There has never been a question about McClain's toughness. While growing up in Philadelphia, he spent a year in a homeless shelter with his mother and two sisters. He was also a boxer during his grade-school years.

That's why no one should be surprised that McClain overcame a possible career-threatening injury. But, before this week, I suspect few believed he would play a significant role in Sunday's game against the Steelers.

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