A Complete McClain

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Le'Ron McClain  could complain about the amount of carries he is receiving in training camp.**

As he returns to more of the traditional fullback role for which he was drafted, McClain has seen the majority of rushing attempts go to Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.

But even after a season where McClain totaled 902 yards and 10 touchdowns, the three-year veteran understands his role as the primary blocker is very important.

"If I'm not getting as many touches as I did, just opening up holes for Ray and Willis and them getting over 100 yards will feel good enough for me," he said.

That's not to say that McClain does not want the touches.

After receiving 232 of them last year, McClain still thinks he can impact a game with his hands on the football.

As a 260-pound bulldozer, that could come in short-yardage and goal-line situations, or even as the main runner in the fourth quarter.

"That's just my mentality to wear them down from the first through third quarter," McClain explained. "Then when you get to the fourth quarter, I know that it's time for crunch time. It's time to beat them up, and they ain't going to want it. That feels great."

McClain ran so hard in 2008 that he earned a Pro Bowl nod as one of the most feared ball carriers in the NFL.

He was surprised when head coach John Harbaugh announced the honor in a team meeting, but it was a foregone conclusion to many of his teammates.

"Going to Pro Bowl, some guys over there were saying how hard I ran the ball and things, telling me to keep it up and keep working," McClain noted. "That praise for me, I was just happy to hear that from some of these guys.

"To be over there with some of the best players in the NFL… The first person I saw when I went down by the pool was Peyton Manning. It was a pretty cool feeling."

Even when the Ravens are rolling Rice and McGahee out at opponents, they know they have a weapon in reserve.

Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, a former All-Pro with the Philadelphia Eagles, said he is amazed at McClain's combination of size and athleticism – which combined makes a nightmare for defenders.

"Le'Ron is a guy that can drop his shoulders and run over you," Montgomery said. "You're looking for help when you tackle him, and you're not in a hurry to get there."

Following a solid rookie season in 2007, when the Ravens drafted him in the fourth round out of Alabama, McClain began to build his reputation as a punishing blocker.

But as an NFL sophomore, through the tutelage of four-time Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal, McClain realized how much his position could make an impact. And, he learned it while Neal was blocking for him.

"Just being around that guy – getting a chance to have him block for me last year was a the greatest feeling in the world, being he is one of the best fullbacks to ever play the game," McClain said. "I'm just trying to follow his steps and model everything that he was doing. He would always tell me, 'You can be way better than me.'

"I just need to take it to another level. That's really what I'm doing right now."

McClain is already progressing down that path.

A year ago, he came into training camp admittedly overweight an out of shape after spending a large part of his offseason taking classes at Alabama. According to McClain, he reported this year at 275 pounds and has already slimmed down to 265. He thinks he will be at his ideal weight by the second preseason game, Aug. 24 against the New York Jets.

At this point, McClain is comfortable clearing the path for Rice or McGahee.

Even so, McClain is also ready and willing to move the chains himself.

"I got drafted to be a fullback," McClain said. "I was at Alabama blocking, but I know there's a plan for me.

"There's going to be plays for me, and I know the defense hates to see two runners. They hate to see that north and south runner, but I'm just trying to help the team out." 

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