Ravens' McClain anxious to get back to hitting

Posted: July 12, 2011

Jameel McClain, a Philadelphia native who attended George Washington High School, was not taken in the 2008 NFL draft.

But the Syracuse linebacker found a home in Baltimore when the Ravens made McClain the only undrafted player to make their team that year.

"It was like I was born into it," McClain said of the Ravens' defensive culture. "Because it's the way I play the game. You look at a Raven player, it's the way people have looked at my game my whole career from high school to college. It was a big surprise to me, because I thought the way I played was - 'Man, like why am I so intense?' But then I come to the Ravens, and I'm like, 'Everybody's just like me. Everybody's mentality is the same.' So it's exciting."

These days, the NFL lockout has the three-year veteran kicking his workouts into an extra gear. He said his next goal is to make the Pro Bowl, but there are a few things he has to work on first.

"I know personally my job is to try and become an all-around linebacker, to play every down," McClain said. "Last year, I was a first- and second-down guy. So my goal is to be out there until the last whistle. That's basically what my whole offseason was structured about, improving slowly but surely in each category."

McClain was limited to special teams in his first season. He saw playing time as a backup linebacker and became a special teams ace, recording 33 tackles on the unit in his second season.

In his third season, McClain graduated to become Ray Lewis' sidekick at inside linebacker and a regular starter, posting 71 tackles and one sack.

Lately, McClain has worked out in Philadelphia with a speed trainer he met during high school, Tony Fulton. George Washington coach Ron Cohen had his whole team doing workouts with Fulton back then. McClain stayed in touch, and now "he's my guy," the linebacker said.

"He knows how to push me," McClain said. "He knows how to get me better."

McClain also plans to work out with pass-rushing coach Chuck Smith in Atlanta to improve that part of his game. Smith "mentored" the Baltimore defense in 2008 during McClain's rookie season.

Smith was a defensive end in the NFL for nine seasons, playing eight of those with the Atlanta Falcons, and he was an all-pro selection in 1997. McClain said Smith has worked with Baltimore's Terrell Suggs, the retired Willie McGinest, and Atlanta's Jamaal Anderson. Smith also has worked with Osi Umenyiora, Albert Haynesworth, Patrick Kerney, and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

The Ravens saw enough in McClain to place a second-round tender on the restricted free agent, reportedly worth about $1.9 million, in February. That's a nice building block for McClain, who wants to be another name associated with the "intense" Ravens defense.

"You know there's a standard," McClain said of playing on the Ravens defense. "You know you've got to represent yourself when you're around such talented people. And at the end of the day, you've got to understand that you're not there by mistake."

The 6-foot-1, 250-pound McClain has been working out five or six days a week but plans to tone it down a bit. But he still has goals to meet, people to hit.

"You know the people are tired [of the lockout]," McClain said. "We're all tired of hearing about it. We all want to be back. But at the end of the day, they've got to come to some fair terms on both sides. And that'll be done. And when football is in effect, it's going to roll."

Contact staff writer Tim Rohan

at trohan@philly.com or @TimRohan on Twitter.

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