NFL Nation: Jameel McClain

The big New York Giants news Thursday was not about a player they acquired but rather about one they lost, as team captain and 2013 sack leader Justin Tuck left to sign with the Raiders. Tuck got a decent-but-not-ridiculous two-year, $11 million deal that the Giants elected not to match even though they could have afforded to do so, and they say good-bye to a piece of their heart along with a piece of their defensive line.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Al Bello/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks appears unlikely to re-sign with the Giants.
Later in the day, they re-signed fullback Henry Hynoski and agreed to terms with former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain. Neither of those moves is making any headlines this morning in New York, and for good reason. The Giants don't set out to make big-splash headlines in March. They are being methodical in their roster rebuild, confining themselves to players under 30 years old and seemingly targeting specific players instead of just rushing out to fill holes with whoever's available.

But they do still have lots of holes to fill. Their top two choices for a kick returner who can also play wide receiver were Jacoby Jones and Ted Ginn Jr., and they have signed with Baltimore and Arizona, respectively. They poked around on cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Corey Graham, who have signed with Washington and Buffalo. They thought they had signed pass-rush help Tuesday with O'Brien Schofield, but that deal appears dead now due to a knee problem that turned up on Schofield's physical. They are still looking for kick returners, wide receivers, cornerbacks, defensive help, a tight end and a center unless they really think J.D. Walton is going to be their starter there.

The good news is that it's only Day 4, and there are a lot of players still available. The bad news is that, after an encouraging first couple of days of results with guard Geoff Schwartz, running back Rashad Jennings and middle linebacker Jon Beason, they don't seem to be having much success convincing their top choices to join them.

A look at some of the places the Giants may go from here:

  • I do not expect, in answer to many of your questions, that they will pursue Jared Allen or Julius Peppers for pass-rush help with Tuck gone. Both of them are older than Tuck is and likely to cost more than he did, and both of those things would violate the formula that's emerging. I think the pass rush is basically in the hands of Jason Pierre-Paul, Damontre Moore and Mathias Kiwanuka. If they supplement, it'll likely be at a low level, as was the plan with Schofield. If you're looking for a name, think about Denver's Robert Ayers, though I imagine he's looking for a place where more playing time might be guaranteed.
  • Hakeem Nicks is visiting with the Colts, talking to the 49ers, supposedly drawing interest from the Panthers ... bit of a market developing for Nicks after all. He's only 26 and a former Giants first-round pick, but the bad experience the Giants had with him in 2013 appears to have overridden the good experiences they had with him in the first four years, and I don't see the Giants getting into any kind of bidding war in an effort to keep him. I also don't see them bringing in 35-year-old Steve Smith to replace him.
  • Cornerback is interesting, because there's a lot of inventory still out there. Antonio Cromartie? Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie? I thought they'd poke around on Tarell Brown, but to this point they have not. They can still be patient here, since most of what's left out there looks about the same. And yeah, I know they were never going to get in on Darrelle Revis, but I'll never truly understand why they don't swing for the fences at least once in a while.
  • The top free-agent centers remain unsigned. The Giants had interested in guys like Evan Dietrich-Smith and Brian de la Puente and still could. It wouldn't be a bad thing if they ended up with more good interior offensive line options than they can fit on the field at the same time. After last year, that would be a great problem for the Giants to have.
  • Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is re-signing with the Lions. Andrew Quarless re-signed with the Packers. I am literally hearing nothing on the Giants and tight ends, and I'm wondering if they're planning to get one in the first two rounds of the draft.

Much more to come, obviously. The Giants still have a lot of work to do, and they work slowly. I'll do my best to keep you posted today and through the weekend.
Another day, another linebacker. The New York Giants' steady, uninspiring first week of free agency continued Thursday when they agreed to terms with linebacker Jameel McClain on a contract he's expected to sign Friday.

McClain
McClain is 28 and went to Syracuse, so he's right in the Giants' wheelhouse. The former Baltimore Raven, who returned to the field in 2013 after a scary spinal cord injury knocked him out in December of 2012, seems a likely candidate to start at the strongside linebacker spot with Jon Beason in the middle and either Spencer Paysinger or Jacquian Williams on the weak side. McClain played inside linebacker in Baltimore's 3-4 front.

McClain joined the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and was one of their starting linebackers from 2010 until the injury knocked him out of Baltimore's run to the Super Bowl XLVII title. He returned to start 10 games in 2013, but the Ravens cut him a couple of weeks ago for cap reasons. His best statistical season was 2011, when he had 84 tackles, a sack, two fumble recoveries, an interception and four pass breakups. Solid veteran who can start or rotate around situationally should someone like Williams or Paysinger show more next year than they have in years past.

The Giants are still looking for a cornerback, a wide receiver, a kick returner, a center, a tight end and probably a couple of reinforcements on the defensive line. But they appear to be all set at linebacker, for a change.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will continue their attempt to bolster their defense through free agency on Wednesday and Thursday, bringing in former Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn for a visit, according to an NFL source.

Munnerlyn
Munnerlyn would fill one of the Vikings' most glaring needs from last season: slot cornerback. The team cut veteran Antoine Winfield last March, gambling on Josh Robinson's ability to move from the outside to the slot position. The Vikings tried to bring Winfield back on a reduced contract, and when Robinson struggled to pick up the position last September, the team nearly signed Winfield out of retirement before their Sept. 29 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. Now, they will have a shot to get a younger fit at the position.

The 25-year-old Munnerlyn has started the past three seasons for the Panthers, intercepting two passes -- and returning both interceptions for touchdowns -- each of the past two seasons. He was a key cog on a Panthers team that reached the division playoffs last season, and allowed an 81.7 passer rating when in slot coverage last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Robinson, on the other hand, allowed a 127.2 passer rating.

The Vikings will also bring former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton in for a visit on Thursday, and hosted former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain on Monday. They signed New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph to a five-year, $31.5 million deal shortly after the start of free agency on Tuesday.
Happy Monday. We've arrived at what is typically the busiest week of the NFL offseason.

Since Saturday, teams have been able to enter into talks with opposing teams' free agents. Starting Tuesday at 4 p.m., deals can become official.

Until then, let's recap what we've learned over the past few days:

1. The Bills will need to make a decision on several players who are due large roster bonuses this week. Quarterback Kevin Kolb ($1 million) and linebacker Manny Lawson ($500,000) are both due roster bonuses on Thursday. On Saturday, the Bills owe wide receiver Stevie Johnson a $1.75 million roster bonus. Last week, Bills general manager Doug Whaley addressed Kolb's situation with John Kryk of the Toronto Sun. "It's a tricky situation," Whaley told Kryk. "We're going to be very careful how we handle this, and the foremost consideration in the whole equation is him being healthy." It would be a surprise if Kolb remains with the team past this week. Lawson and Johnson are longer shots to be released but their situations still bear watching.

2. Last week, the Bills hosted linebackers Jameel McClain and Jasper Brinkley, who were both released by their former teams. Brinkley could be off the market soon, as Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo reported Sunday that the Minnesota Vikings will bring back Brinkley on a one-year deal. Meanwhile, McClain will still meet with the Vikings on Monday, reports 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson. We ranked linebacker as the Bills' top free-agent need and we wouldn't be surprised if the Bills made a play to sign one of the top free-agent linebackers available. Jon Beason and Karlos Dansby are among those who are hitting the open market this week.

3. ESPN.com Miami Dolphins reporter James Walker reported Monday that safety Jairus Byrd is seeking a deal that pays him at least $9 million per season. That would make Byrd the highest-paid safety in the NFL, at least in terms of average salary per season. The NFL Network reported over the weekend that the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams have expressed interest in Byrd.

4. While Tuesday is the start of the free-agent signing period, it's also the first day that teams can complete trades. At this point, don't rule out activity on that end from the Bills.

Vikings re-sign LB Larry Dean

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
11:35
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings brought back another one of their free agents on Monday morning, re-signing linebacker Larry Dean, who has made his mark on special teams more than anywhere else during his last three seasons in Minnesota.

Dean
The undrafted free agent played all 16 games last season, forcing and recovering a fumble in addition to making 13 tackles. He made $555,000 last season, and was a restricted free agent headed into 2014.

As some of you have pointed out, the Vikings' linebacking group mostly consists of young, unproven players (Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti) and backup types (Dean and Jasper Brinkley) in addition to Chad Greenway and Audie Cole, who got some experience at the end of last season. The Vikings will bring in former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for a visit Monday, and could pursue Bengals restricted free agent Vincent Rey, who wouldn't cost the Vikings a draft pick if they signed him. Otherwise, though, the Vikings could be relying on a young group and the upcoming draft, where a number of intriguing linebacker options could be there for the Vikings at No. 8.

Dean, though, was mostly brought back to help on special teams, and the fact he's been an important cog there is why he's got a new deal with the Vikings.
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.
GriffenAP Photo/Jim MoneEverson Griffen's new contract could be followed by several more big moves by the Vikings.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings retained another one of their free agents on Sunday, giving defensive lineman Everson Griffen a whopping $42.5 million over the next five years, including $20 million guaranteed, according to a league source.

Now what?

In the past five months, they have signed Brian Robison and Griffen to contract extensions, committing a combined $33.15 million in guaranteed money to the players. That would seemingly set their defensive end tandem up for the next few years, with Griffen replacing Jared Allen on the line. But wait, there's more!

Once the NFL's three-day negotiating window opened on Saturday, the Vikings made it one of their first priorities to express interest in former Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, and put themselves in the middle of what will likely be a heated race for Johnson. The 27-year-old stood out at right end for new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati, and the Vikings would have been working on Griffen's deal while calling about Johnson. But wait, there's more!

They also called about former Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, who played for new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray while he was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee and who has to be feeling emboldened today after news that Sam Shields signed a four-year, $39 million deal to stay with the Green Bay Packers. While the Vikings had more than $41 million in cap space last week, they have since signed Griffen and quarterback Matt Cassel, not to mention restricted free agent cornerback Marcus Sherels. They also reportedly brought back linebacker Jasper Brinkley for his second stint with the team, and according to a league source, they will host former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for a visit on Monday.

While the pertinent question might be, "Who can the Vikings afford?" a better one might be, "On what does it make sense for them to spend their money?"

Without having seen the full breakdowns of the new deals yet, let's assume they account for about $16 million of cap space. That would still leave the Vikings with about $25 million of room for next season, with the cap likely to go up over the next few years. Paying both Johnson and Verner would be doable, but it could also chew up another $16-20 million in cap space for 2014, meaning the Vikings wouldn't have much leeway to sign tight end Kyle Rudolph to an extension, pursue other needs like a big-bodied nose tackle, or pay their draft picks. And in the case of Johnson, there is also the question of where the Vikings would use all their toys if they signed him.

Let's say Johnson came to Minnesota, filling the right end spot he played for Zimmer in Cincinnati. If Robison stayed at left end, the Vikings would be looking to move Griffen around again. He played 60.1 percent of their defensive snaps without starting a game last season, according to Pro Football Focus, but the Vikings aren't giving him $20 million guaranteed to use him in a part-time role. I think it's possible they could experiment with him at linebacker -- Zimmer likes his linemen to occupy blockers and allow his linebackers to run free, which isn't that different from a 3-4 scheme and could actually utilize Griffen's talents well -- but the previous regime tried a similar experiment, and the Vikings would have to see if Griffen could hold up in pass coverage. And with cornerback being a bigger need at this point, the Vikings might be better-served using their money to ensure they get an upgrade there.

It's also worth considering what Zimmer said last week, arguing for a reasoned approach to free agency while stating his preference for something with the dependability of a Ford F-150 over the flashiness of a Maserati. To this point, all the Vikings have done -- in fact, all they have been allowed to do by NFL rules -- is retain their in-house free agents. While they have expressed interest in two of the top defensive players on the market, that hasn't cost them anything yet. They could always clear more room by restructuring the contract of 31-year-old linebacker Chad Greenway, who is to make $8.7 million next season, and the Vikings still have enough room to do some contract gymnastics and sign a couple free agents while staying well under the cap, but for a team that has gone back to a draft-and-develop philosophy after years of shelling out for free agents, it might make sense not to get too carried away.

Could the Vikings still sign both Johnson and Verner? Yes. Would they have checked in with both of them so early, knowing Griffen's deal might get done, if they didn't have a scenario where they could land them? Probably not. But the size of Griffen's deal does mean the Vikings would have some pieces to fit in place if they were to get aggressive on the open market, particularly at defensive end.
The Buffalo Bills are hosting free-agent linebacker Jameel McClain on a visit Wednesday.

McClain
McClain, 28, was released by the Baltimore Ravens last week. Entering the final year of his contract, he was due a $3.2 million base salary.

After beginning last season on the physically unable to perform list, McClain started 10 games, recording 52 tackles and one forced fumble.

The Syracuse product has played his entire career for the Ravens after going undrafted in 2008. His best season came in 2011, when he started all 16 games, notching 84 tackles, one sack, one interception and four passes defensed.

At 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, McClain played inside linebacker in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme. His best fit with the Bills would likely be at middle linebacker in Jim Schwartz's system.

That could mean Kiko Alonso, who finished second in the Associated Press' defensive rookie of the year voting last season, could move to weak-side linebacker in the 4-3 alignment.
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.

Cap increase may save Ravens punter

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
11:30
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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.
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.
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).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Three Baltimore Ravens linebackers are on the injury report for Sunday's game at the Pittsburgh Steelers, including two at inside linebacker.

Bynes
The Ravens officially ruled out starting inside linebacker Josh Bynes after he had surgery on his infected finger. Rookie second-round pick Arthur Brown is expected to make his first career start.

Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw (foot) and inside linebacker Albert McClellan (shoulder) are both listed as questionable. Upshaw has been limited all week, and McClellan played last Sunday with the same injury.

Without Bynes, the Ravens may consider activating Jameel McClain from the physically unable to perform list. McClain, who suffered a spinal cord contusion 10 months ago, is listed as probable after practicing all week.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is listed as questionable, but he returned to the game last Sunday after straining his elbow.

Here is the Ravens' official injury report:

OUT: ILB Josh Bynes (finger, thigh).

DOUBTFUL: WR Brandon Stokley (groin), C Ryan Jensen (foot).

QUESTIONABLE: CB Chykie Brown (thigh), DT Terrence Cody (knee), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DT Haloti Ngata (elbow), LB Courtney Upshaw (foot), CB Lardarius Webb (hamstring).

PROBABLE: DE Chris Canty (groin), LB Jameel McClain (neck), DT Marcus Spears (knee).

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