Head Coach John Harbaugh eased fears that linebacker
McClain has been sidelined with a spinal cord contusion since making a tackle on Dec. 9 when playing the Redskins. That’s eight and a half months without practicing or playing any football.
But Harbaugh said McClain will make a return at some point – possibly even this season. Harbaugh was asked if McClain might be ruled out for the year.
“By no means,” he said. “The MRI will be clear. There’s no question at some point in time it will be clear. It’s just impossible, they say, to tell us the time frame.”
Harbaugh said it looks like, at this point, McClain will start the year on the physically unable to perform list, which will knock him out for at least the first six regular-season games. The Ravens will probably take another MRI before making that decision.
After the six games, players on PUP have a three-week window to resume practicing. Once a player begins practicing, the team has another three weeks to activate the player from the PUP list onto the 53-man roster.
McClain, 28, signed a three-year contract before the 2012 season and is a major part of the defense. He reportedly took a $1.5 million pay cut last week.
There is always a concern with back injuries, particularly with the spinal cord. Nobody wants a players’ long-term health to be jeopardized by a single hit. So the Ravens want to be especially careful with McClain.
Harbaugh said he’s had conversations with McClain and his family about his football future.
“We’ve got to take a look at the MRI and make a determination of if he’s 150 percent and ready to go,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a lot of people that think he probably could play. But I think we’ve had this conversation with Jameel and his family and we all feel like, let’s be unanimous with this.”
McClain has obviously expressed a desire to continue playing. He’s still at the Under Armour Performance Center, going to every meeting, working with the younger players and working out.
“He’s staying in phenomenal shape,” Harbaugh marveled. “If you see him, he’s a fitness warrior. All he’s going to have to do is get in football shape, which will take a week or two when he does come back.”
As of now, the Ravens will just continue to keep working with the doctors and keep taking MRIs to see when McClain can get on the practice field. Harbaugh said doctors told the team he could have returned three months ago, or it could be three weeks from now.
“We’ll just keep taking the MRIs and when the MRI is clear, then he’ll go,” Harbaugh said.