Baltimore Ravens: Rolando McClain
@jamisonhensley: Not immediately. The Ravens definitely need an upgrade over Darian Stewart, who lacks great instincts and has been slow to react in coverage. But Will Hill hasn't practiced since Aug. 30. It's going to take time for him to get a feel for the defense again. That may take a few weeks, a second training camp so to speak. It certainly helped that Hill was allowed to attend meetings and work out in the weight room during his six-game suspension. That keeps him ahead of the curve as far as the mental aspect of the game. Do I think Hill will eventually start for the Ravens? Yes. But it won't come as fast as many will want.
@jamisonhensley do you think Will Hill will start when he come back from suspension ?— Teon Ransom (@King_Ransom44) October 2, 2014
@jamisonhensley: I first mentioned inside linebacker C.J. Mosley as a strong candidate for NFL defensive rookie of the year back in May. Mosley is the second-leading tackler among rookies with 33 (seven bending Preston Brown). He also has a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and three pass breakups. Mosley's good start puts him in the conversation. The early favorite, though, has to be Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller, who was named NFL defensive rookie of the month. A native of Baltimore, Fuller tied for the NFL lead in interceptions (three) in September and is tied for second in the league with a pair of forced fumbles.
@jamisonhensley will CJ Mosley win defensive ROY?— Eric Baquol (@TerpRave) October 2, 2014
@jamisonhensley: I would've been surprised if he was simply playing. In a span of one year with the Ravens, Rolando McClain retired twice and dogged his only workout with the team. Why would anyone think McClain would turn it around for the Dallas Cowboys? There was never a question about talent. It was about his commitment. The Ravens, though, are much better off with C.J. Mosley than McClain -- for the short and long term.
@jamisonhensley How surprised are the Ravens at how well Rolando McClain is playing down in Dallas?— Preston Donakowski (@Preston_D) October 2, 2014
@jamisonhensley: I would hold off on saying the Ravens have struck gold with James Hurst. As you pointed out, it was one game. He had an average performance, but it was certainly a good effort considering the undrafted rookie was starting his first NFL game. Hurst is not a strong run blocker, and he's going to have trouble against speed rushers. But you're not expecting a Pro Bowl talent when you're looking at the No. 3 tackle. Eugene Monroe and Rick Wagner look to be the Ravens' starting tackles for the next few years. The Ravens will be happy if Hurst can fill the role of being their top backup.
@jamisonhensley It's only one game, but it looks like the Ravens struck gold with James Hurst. Any idea how coaching staff feels about him?— Forman (@kdf617) October 2, 2014
"There are many battles looming on the upcoming horizons, and we’ll be riding into the sun," Harbaugh told reporters in his first media session leading up to camp.
Harbaugh was asked whether he had come up with a slogan for this year's camp. The one he talked at length about was "All in," which is more associated with Texas Hold'em than the football field.
"'All in' is something we’re going to talk about," Harbaugh said. "What does it really mean to be ‘all in’ on something? To be completely committed to something? Who do you do it for? Why do you do it? Those [are the] kinds of things we’ll be talking to [the players] about.”
The Ravens' first full-team training camp practice is Thursday morning.
Here are some other notes:
- Running back Bernard Pierce (shoulder) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) have been cleared to practice after missing most of the offseason workouts. "My shoulder definitely got a lot better," Pierce told The Baltimore Sun. Pierce is expected to fill in for Ray Rice if the starting running back is suspended by the NFL.
- There is no timetable for the return of backup nose tackle Terrence Cody, who was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list while recovering from offseason hip surgery. "He’s coming along. He’s doing a good job," Harbaugh said. "He’s very determined. He thinks with that hip being healthy that he’s going to be able to show what he can do for the first time in his career. I’m hoping he’s right. I’d like to see his best.”
- Linebacker Rolando McClain, who was traded by the Ravens on July 1, reported to Dallas Cowboys training camp, according to ESPN.com's Todd Archer. He might have to leave soon, however. McClain is due in Decatur (Alabama) Municipal Court on Friday after Judge Bill Cook Jr. declined to delay a trial stemming from charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
- In other ex-Ravens news, linebacker Jameel McClain was carted off the field on Tuesday, the first day of New York Giants' training camp. He had X-rays on his foot, which were negative, a source told ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson.
The Ravens' first full-team training camp practice is July 24, so there are still 17 days until the team takes the field again. The Ravens blog will continue to count down to the start of camp with the 2014 player rankings.
Here is my take on the latest happenings with the Ravens ...
News: The Ravens traded linebacker Rolando McClain for a conditional late-round pick. If McClain plays 50 percent of the defensive snaps in 2014, the Ravens would trade their seventh-round pick in 2015 for the Cowboys' sixth-rounder. If that fails to happen, the teams would swap seventh-round picks in 2016 if McClain is on the 53-man roster for five games or 46-man roster for three games. It's contingent on the Cowboys' seventh-round pick being higher than the Ravens' one in that round.
My take: Don't count on the Ravens getting any compensation for McClain. In a span of one year with the Ravens, McClain retired twice and dogged his only workout with the team. His best chance for a comeback was with the Ravens because he had a strong supporter in general manager Ozzie Newsome. Why would anyone think it would end differently in Dallas?
News: The Ravens are discussing a contract extension with kicker Justin Tucker.
My take: I will discuss this more on the blog on Tuesday, but this would obviously be a win-win for both sides. Tucker won't be an unrestricted free agent until 2016 and deserves to be rewarded. The Ravens can gain long-term stability at the position, something they haven't had since the days of Matt Stover.
News: Ex-Ravens fullback Vonta Leach isn't planning to retire, even though he remains a free agent. He is hoping to sign with another team in training camp.
My take: Leach still can play in this league at age 32, but there are not a lot of teams looking for pure blocking fullback anymore. There's little chance of Leach returning to the Ravens. Kyle Juszczyk has generated buzz in offseason workouts with his versatility in Gary Kubiak's offense.
News: Lorenzo Taliaferro's court case has been continued to July 31. The rookie running back was arrested for misdemeanor destruction of property and being drunk in public in Williamsburg, Virginia.
My take: This is the last unresolved legal matter in what was a troublesome offseason for the Ravens, who had four players arrested. Taliaferro isn't expected to be disciplined by the NFL because this is his first off-the-field incident.
News: Joe Flacco was ranked No. 12 in a list compiled by ESPN Insider Mike Sando.
My take: This is lower than where I would've ranked Flacco. I understand why he's at the bottom of the second tier of quarterbacks. Flacco is coming off his worst season in the NFL. It's surprising how quickly the evaluators on this poll forgot about Flacco's track record, especially in the postseason. Based on that, Flacco should rank higher than Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson.
"Have I lost faith in Alabama? My son is still there," Newsome said. "I think that takes care of that one."
It's unknown whether Newsome's son would've passed the Ravens' conditioning test, but I digress.
Based on the Ravens' unusual year-long commitment to McClain, some have questioned whether Newsome, the biggest Alabama fan north of Tuscaloosa, is partial to the Crimson Tide players. This would ramp up if the Ravens selected Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or linebacker C.J. Mosley in the first round this year.
History shows the Ravens do like to draft Alabama players. In their 18 drafts, the Ravens have selected six players from Alabama, which is tied for second with Miami for the most players drafted from one school. Only Oklahoma has had more players drafted by the Ravens (seven). It should be pointed out that the Ravens have never drafted an Alabama player in the first round.
As for McClain, Newsome didn't provide much insight on what happened with the linebacker.
"Rolando retired," he said. "At the end of the day, a person has to make a decision whether he wants to play football or not play football. It was his decision to retire."
This comes one day after McClain told ESPN that he is walking away from the game for good. If you're counting at home, McClain spent four days off the retired list before going back on it.
By using this designation, the Ravens still hold McClain's rights if he wants to return. Why would the Ravens do this? That is one of the greatest mysteries in my 14 years of covering this team.
At this point, no one can believe McClain will follow through on any comeback attempt after retiring twice in an 11-month span. You have to wonder whether he's just trying to break Brett Favre's streak of going on/off the retired list.
April 12, 2013: The Ravens signed McClain to a one-year, $700,000 contract that includes no guaranteed money. "Ray Lewis retired after winning the Super Bowl and I look to fill his slot," McClain told the Madison (Ala.) Weekly News.
April 16, 2013: General manager Ozzie Newsome explained why the troubled linebacker had a chance to succeed with the Ravens. "I think the guys in the locker room will be able to provide him with the proper guidance that he needs as to the way John [Harbaugh] wants his football team and football players to be," he said.
April 21, 2013: McClain was arrested in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, police said. This was McClain's third arrest in an 11-month span. McClain allegedly yelled obscenities at police officers as they were trying to disperse a large crowd of more than 700 people at a local park after they responded to calls about a fight.
May 6, 2013: He pleaded guilty to a charge in Decatur, Ala., of violating rules on car window tint, while a charge of lying about his identity was dropped. When he was arrested in January 2013, McClain signed an expletive on the citation he received from police instead of his name. He paid a $182 fine.
May 7, 2013: Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta told The Baltimore Sun that McClain deserves a second chance. "If you asked him, he would probably admit to making some mistakes," DeCosta said. "We have a relationship with a lot of Alabama players. We get a lot of good information from Alabama because of Ozzie Newsome's relationship with the school. So, we think he deserves a second chance."
May 15, 2013: McClain informed the Ravens that he planned to retire at the age of 23, and the team put him on the reserve-retired list. In a statement released by his agent, McClain wrote: "Clearly, my decision to retire has raised some questions. Quite simply, I love football, but I have decided at this time it is in my best interest to focus on getting my personal life together. Beyond that, I'm not sure what the future holds for me, including football. This was entirely my decision and the Ravens have been very supportive during this process. I am very grateful for the opportunity they gave me and wish them the best of luck in the future. God willing, maybe I'll play for them one day."
June 11, 2013: McClain re-enrolled at the University of Alabama. "I know a lot of people get disappointed in Rolando McClain and a lot of the things he's struggled with, but he's with us now," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
July 10, 2013: McClain pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. The case is still pending.
Oct. 30, 2013: McClain said he retired because he was worried he would do something he would regret. "I felt like Aaron Hernandez, like I just wanted to kill somebody," McClain said in an interview for this week's ESPN The Magazine.
March 11, 2014: McClain started telling people that he's targeting a comeback and began working out again.
March 25, 2014: Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he hadn't yet spoken to McClain about a comeback. "To me, it all depends on a couple things. Who [is he] as a person right now? Has he grown up?" Harbaugh said. "He had a lot of growing up to do obviously. And how hard he's working, how hard he's working at Alabama right now. If he's working his rear end off, then I'm kind of excited about him. If he's not, then I've got no interest in him being on our team."
April 3, 2014: McClain said he was expected to meet with Newsome that week to discuss a potential return. "I'm excited about the game again," McClain said. "I'm excited to play."
April 15, 2014: McClain flopped in his first workout with the Ravens. He reportedly was 22 minutes late and failed to finish the conditioning test.
April 17, 2014: The Ravens activated McClain off the reserve-retired list. Ravens officials declined any official comment on the move, which was reported on the NFL's transactions list.
April 21, 2014: McClain informed ESPN that he's retiring again on the day when the Ravens are starting their offseason workout program. He texted ESPN: "I gotta follow my heart. It ain't football. If football made me complete I would play. But whenever I think of it my heart pulls me away from whatever reason. ... This means I'm done."
No one should be surprised by how this fruitless drama ended. In fact, it would have been surprising if McClain had turned his career around and became a productive player this season for the Ravens.
Other than the label of being a first-round pick and his age (24), McClain gave no reason for the Ravens' continued commitment and provided plenty of red flags to cut him. The Ravens signed McClain to a contract last April, and he was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest 10 days later. Then, 11 months after abruptly retiring, the Ravens gave McClain the opportunity to work out for them, and he couldn't finish the conditioning test.
The fact that McClain quit again only four days after the Ravens reinstated him off the reserve-retired list actually follows the pattern of disappointment. While there was a report that the plan was in place for McClain to report to the team's offseason program Monday, it's apparent that the Ravens gave McClain the weekend to decide whether he wanted to play.
In a way, McClain did the Ravens a favor. He could've strung this out longer if he had participated in the workouts and later chose to retire again. The Ravens now know they can't depend on McClain going forward, even though they had to know it already by his repeated actions. It was always false hope.
This was McClain's text to Wickersham: "I gotta follow my heart. It ain't football. If football made me complete I would play. But whenever I think of it my heart pulls me away from whatever reason. ... This means I'm done."
The most puzzling part about this was the Ravens' willingness to stand by McClain. I understand general manager Ozzie Newsome's ties to Alabama, where McClain played, and coach Nick Saban, but this went against what the Ravens stand for as an organization.
The Ravens always say they want players who "Play Like A Raven." That's defined by work ethic and a passion for the game. McClain was really an anti-Raven, retiring two times in a one-year span. I'm betting Brett Favre thinks there was too much drama over this.
In the end, all the Ravens lost in their 12 months with McClain was time and energy. There was no guaranteed money in his one-year deal.
Is there a chance that McClain will attempt another comeback next year or in the future? I wouldn't count it out. I just don't think another team is going to give McClain another chance.
He never lived up to expectations with the Oakland Raiders. His resume includes a suspension and multiple arrests. His best opportunity was with the Ravens, and he blew it twice. The Ravens would have to be desperate to ever consider McClain again.
When he first retired, McClain said it was done to get his "priorities straight." Let's hope for his sake, as a person and not as a player, he gets it right the second time.
That's why it's in the Ravens' best interest to release Rolando McClain after his disastrous first on-field workout for the team.
It's clear that McClain isn't committed to the game, even after being away from the game for a year. So, why should the Ravens stay committed to McClain?
Last month at the NFL owners meetings, coach John Harbaugh said McClain's return to the Ravens would depend on his work ethic and maturity. Showing up late and out of shape isn't going to cut it.
The Ravens don't have to make a move with McClain. They could give him more time to train and see if he fares better next month before the offseason practices begin. I just don't understand why the Ravens would do this. If McClain had shown up for a job interview unprepared and not on time, he's not going to get a second shot at that job.
It's sad that a talented players such as McClain hasn't gotten his life on track yet. It's sad that McClain doesn't realize how many others would do anything for the opportunity he received Tuesday.
A blown workout is just another red flag for the No. 8 overall pick of the 2010 draft. McClain has been arrested for firing a gun next to someone's head, writing an expletive on a police citation instead of his real name and inciting a crowd by shouting expletives at police. He was suspended for two games by the Oakland Raiders in 2012 after arguing with head coach Dennis Allen.
The extent of McClain's troubles were revealed in an interview with ESPN The Magazine last year, when he decided to retire because he was worried he would do something he would regret. "I felt like Aaron Hernandez, like I just wanted to kill somebody," McClain said.
Last year, I wrote the Ravens should release McClain after he got arrested 10 days after signing his contract with the team. The Ravens decided to give him more time, and he blew it.
It would be a mistake to give him a third chance. McClain didn't earn it.
If Newsome signs off on his comeback, McClain thinks he will report to the Ravens offseason program, which begins April 21.
"I'm excited about the game again," McClain told the paper. "I'm excited to play."
At the NFL owners meetings, coach John Harbaugh said he hasn't talked to McClain about playing for the Ravens. The Ravens hold the rights on McClain, who abruptly retired last offseason.
"To me, it all depends on a couple things. Who [is he] as a person right now? Has he grown up?" Harbaugh said last week. "He had a lot of growing up to do obviously. And how hard he's working, how hard he's working at Alabama right now. If he's working his rear end off, then I'm kind of excited about him. If he's not, then I've got no interest in him being on our team."
The Ravens are expected to start Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown at inside linebacker, but Harbaugh said he wants to add depth at that position.
Here's the rest of your wake-up caw ...
- If the Ravens don't draft an offensive tackle, the favorite to start at right tackle is Rick Wagner. “I just want to be a consistent guy across the board, whether it’s run or pass protection," Wagner told the team's official website. "I want to be a consistent guy, a smart player who knows the playbook from front to back. I think there is just such little room for error, and you’re definitely paying attention to every detail. And you want to make sure you’re showing your best game for the coaches.” Wagner is a fifth-round pick from a year ago.
- Wide receiver Steve Smith told The Baltimore Sun that he's planning to drive Friday to Ravens headquarters, where he wants to get in a workout, meet up with more of his new teammates and then get his locker situated. "I’m excited, I’m happy and I’m ready to play, and I’m ready to be an asset to this team and bring whatever they expect from me," Smith said at a football camp he's hosting at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. "Whatever that expectation is, honestly, my job and my mindset is to exceed that.”
- In case you missed it, here's my post about why tight end Owen Daniels is such a key addition for the Ravens.
Two weeks ago, McClain was noncommittal on whether he plans to play this season.
"To me, it all depends on a couple things. Who [is he] as a person right now? Has he grown up?" Harbaugh said. "He had a lot of growing up to do obviously. And how hard he's working, how hard he's working at Alabama right now. If he's working his rear end off, then I'm kind of excited about him. If he's not, then I've got no interest in him being on our team."
The Ravens don't have a pressing need at inside linebacker. The team re-signed Daryl Smith and hopes Arthur Brown steps into a starting role in his second season. The Ravens' backups are Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan, both of whom have starting experience and are core special-teams players.
McClain, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Oakland Raiders, announced his retirement 10 months ago, stating he wanted "to focus on getting my personal life together."
He re-enrolled at Alabama and told reporters that he needs two summer classes to complete his degree.
The Raiders released McClain last April 5 after a series of off-field issues, including a shooting incident in December 2011 that led to McClain being charged with four misdemeanors. The charges were later dropped after he and the victim reached a financial settlement.
McClain signed with the Ravens five days after being released by Oakland but retired before attending even one practice. The Ravens still retain the rights for the 24-year-old former Alabama standout. In 41 games over three seasons with the Raiders, McClain had 246 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
Harbaugh didn't specify whether there is a time frame in which the Ravens need to know McClain's decision.
"If he unretires or whatever the situation is, then we'll decide whether he is going to be good for our team," Harbaugh said. "And if we think yes, then we have the rights to him and he'll have to come back with us. But if we don't think he'll be good for our team, we'll let him go and play for somebody else. It's all up to Rolando McClain. Who are you? How hard are you working? And how much do you want to play football? Up to this point, he hasn't really wanted to play football. That's what I'm interested in as a coach."
- Harbaugh acknowledged he was surprised when owner Steve Bisciotti offered him a one-year contract extension last month.
- Ray Rice was as heavy as 217 pounds last season, according to Harbaugh. The Ravens would like Rice to be around 207 pounds this season. Harbaugh reiterated that Rice "will be part of our team."
- Harbaugh was very strong on three player arrests in a month span were "unacceptable."
- Jeremy Zuttah, who was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been brought in to be the starting center. Harbaugh talked with Gino Gradkowski, last year's starter, to break the news.
- The plan is to start Kelechi Osemele at left guard, which is where he is most comfortable. But, depending on what the Ravens do in the draft, Osemele could still play right tackle.
- As of right now, Rick Wagner would start at right tackle. Wagner was a fifth-round pick from last year. Of course, the draft could change this.
- Asked how the Ravens would replace defensive tackle Arthur Jones in the starting lineup, Harbaugh talked about starting Brandon Williams alongside Haloti Ngata at defensive tackle. He also mentioned using Kapron Lewis-Moore as well.
- Tyrod Taylor has played, but he said Taylor's best football is ahead of him. Given that Taylor has one year left on his contract, the Ravens are looking at quarterbacks in free agency and the draft. Harbaugh has been "disappointed" in how backup quarterback
- Joe Flacco has workouts scheduled with his receivers, but Harbaugh doesn't know when they will occur.
- Harbaugh said the Ravens aren't done in free agency. "I think we're actively engaged with a number of guys, some on our team and some who are free agents," he said.
- In terms of tight ends, the Ravens have Owen Daniels and Ed Dickson on their radar.
- The Ravens are looking to extend the contracts of cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Torrey Smith. The team will pick up the 2015 option on Jimmy Smith in May.
- Harbaugh is in favor of expanding the replay system. He likes Patriots coach Bill Belichick's proposal of having everything subject to a coach's challenge.
- The Ravens haven't talked to inside linebacker Rolando McClain about a potential return. Harbaugh, though, said he would welcome McClain if he can help the team. It depends on how hard McClain is working and how much he has matured, Harbaugh said.
- Harbaugh said the Ravens will have a tougher and more physical training camp this year because his players are younger.
- The seventh-round pick acquired from the Miami Dolphins in the trade for offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie is for the 2015 draft, Harbaugh confirmed. It was originally reported it was for the 2014 draft.
I didn't like the Ravens' decision to sign McClain 11 months ago, and I wouldn't recommend keeping him now with the team's recent off-the-field troubles.
It's definitely tempting to allow him to come to minicamps and training camps to see what he can do. McClain is 24 years old. He was the No. 8 overall pick of the 2010 draft. He's a bargain at a one year and $700,000. From a football standpoint, it makes perfect sense to suit him up.
From an image standpoint, it's a gamble to keep McClain considering every big story involving the Ravens over the past month (besides the Dennis Pitta signing) has been linked to the police blotter. Some suggest McClain just needs to stay out of his hometown of Decatur, Ala., where all three of his arrests happened in less than a year. But you have to wonder why he continually went back to the one place where trouble occurred. If anything, you have to question his decision-making.
McClain has been arrested for firing a gun next to someone's head, writing an expletive on a police citation instead of his real name and inciting a crowd by shouting expletives at police. His last arrest came 10 days after signing a contract with the Ravens last year. He decided to retire in May because he was worried he would do something he would regret.
"I felt like Aaron Hernandez, like I just wanted to kill somebody," McClain said in an interview with ESPN The Magazine.
Now, 10 months later, a source close to McClain told the Carroll County (Md.) Times that the linebacker "is in a better place mentally."
Hopefully, this is true. Hopefully, McClain has got his life back in order. But the Ravens don't need to that risk, especially after running back Ray Rice was arrested in a domestic violence incident and backup guard Jah Reid was arrested on two misdemeanor counts of battery following an altercation at a strip club.
If everything goes according to plan, the Ravens aren't in desperate need of an inside linebacker. Baltimore is banking on Daryl Smith re-signing and second-round pick Arthur Brown stepping into a starting role in his second season. Both backups, Albert McClellan and Josh Bynes, have experience as starters.
Perhaps if this was a year or two down the road, the timing might be better for the Ravens and McClain. Right now, the timing couldn't be worse.