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McClain Headed Back to Fullback?


**Le’Ron McClain**  was one of the NFL's largest running backs last season, weighing in at over 260 pounds.

It seems that he will revert back to being a regular-sized fullback this year.

When the Ravens decided not to re-sign veteran blocker Lorenzo Neal, that opened the door for Baltimore's top rusher of 2008 to return to his original position.

After gaining a team-high 902 yards and 10 touchdowns on 232 carries, McClain accepts his role opening holes for **Willis McGahee** and **Ray Rice**, even if he admits he would rather keep toting the football.

"With the success I had last year at halfback, I'm leaning more towards tailback," McClain said at last weekend's minicamp. "But you know me, I'm going to play my role and do whatever I can to help the team. I know they've got a plan for us and it involves the whole 11."

With the sturdy Neal in the backfield, McClain flourished as a runner. Neal, a four-time Pro Bowler, is considered to be one of the best battering rams in the league, and he blew up defenders in Baltimore's formidable Jumbo package.

Regularly following Neal's lead, McClain earned a Pro Bowl nod himself - even though it was as a fullback and not as a running back.

Still, McClain also saw action at fullback last year. After all, that is the reason the Alabama product was originally selected in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

Even though Neal was only in Baltimore for one season, McClain believes that year took his game to another level.

"He was a leader, and I learned that," McClain said of Neal. "It's about knowing football, not just my position. Knowing where everybody else is on the field, knowing defenses, knowing coverages. That helped my game.

"I'm getting here early, lifting the weights and conditioning so I can still be strong at the end of the day and the later part of the season."

Already, it is evident that McClain is telling the truth.

He's been a regular at the Ravens' offseason conditioning program, which began in mid-March.

One year ago, the story was much different. He took classes at his alma mater over the spring and summer and spent time with his young daughter, Alexzondria. As such, he came into training camp overweight and out of shape.

Then, with Neal and other teammates pushing him, McClain eventually became a feared ground threat.

"I know where I could have been if I had come in in-shape, with the season I had last year," McClain explained. "I just took that as a positive and a stepping stone. Now, I've really been working to get ready, starting on March 16.

"I've been riding ever since."

McClain did see some reps at tailback in the minicamp, mainly because McGahee was still nursing an ankle injury that he said required offeason surgery. Team officials have said he is also suffering from a knee injury.

Without Neal to play fullback, the Ravens lined up 263-pound tight end Edgar Jones in front of McClain.  Even though the minicamp practices were non-contact, McClain looked shifty in spite of his heft. 

"When I touch it, I'm going to show them I can still do it whether I'm at fullback or not," said McClain. "I'm going to do my best to get Ray and Willis more yards. I know I'm the starting fullback and I'm the second halfback, too, behind Ray with Willis not out there right now. When I get my chance again, I'm going to take advantage of it. They know what I can do."

One player that could spell McClain at fullback would be rookiee free agent **Jason Cook**, a 6-foot, 235-pound blocker out of Mississippi.  Cook was a captain along with Ravens first-round draft pick **Michael Oher**.  The chances of Cook making the active roster - one with an established fullback (McClain) already on it - at his position are slim, however.  

Baltimore's coaches know about McClain's prowess at clearing out tacklers.

In fact, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who coached Neal for four years when they were both with the San Diego Chargers, thinks McClain could develop into a dominant fullback.

"Le'Ron [McClain] has improved tremendously," Cameron said. "He's not the same player he was a year ago. He's a different guy right now, already. I see a lot of Lorenzo Neal just in Le'Ron. In my mind, as if he's here."

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