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Ravens May Need Two New Starting Inside Linebackers


Ray Lewis is working for ESPN. Jameel McClain is sidelined by a spinal cord injury that hasn't completely healed after seven and a half months.

Thus, the Ravens are playing with two new starting linebackers for the foreseeable future, and they both are new to the team.

Rookie second-round draft pick Arthur Brown and veteran signee Daryl Smith have been running with the first-team defense thus far in training camp. They'll have to get ready in a hurry.

"Honestly, I think we all have to be ready regardless of what his situation is," Brown said. "We have to take initiative and be prepared for anything."

McClain doesn't seem to be headed back to the field very soon. On Thursday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said that when looking at an MRI of McClain's back, there's "no denying the fact that it's not safe for him at this time."

"There's no way that we are going to put him out there until it clears up," Harbaugh said.

While Lewis' absence is all the buzz, McClain's void also leaves a big hole in the Ravens defense.

McClain was a consistent force, making 79 tackles in 13 starts last season. He was also a leader on the unit and in the locker room. McClain wore the headset to communicate with coaches and barked out play calls to his teammates.

Now those responsibilities could fall on a rookie and a veteran adjusting to a new team for the first time in his 10-year career.

Brown is a Kansas State product who is known for his sideline-to-sideline speed and aggressive mentality. He missed some time during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) due to sports hernia surgery, but is back on the field and moving well.

"Arthur looks good. He's 100 percent, no problem," Harbaugh said.

Unlike the brazen and outspoken Lewis, Brown is a soft-spoken individual. Asked if he's preparing to be a starter this season, Brown said, "if that's what it leads to, yes.

"But all I can do is fulfill my role and do what I need to do in order to make that happen," he added.

Smith is also a modest player. He was signed on June 6 after Jacksonville decided not to bring him back. Smith is the Jaguars' all-time tackles leader (678), and has long been considered one of the AFC's most underrated players. The question with Smith is his health after being limited to two games last season with a groin injury.

After seeing Smith in just a handful of practices, Harbaugh already feels the Ravens may have gotten a steal. Smith has quickly picked up on the Ravens system, and is good in both run and pass coverage.

"Daryl Smith's signing was just a great move by [General Manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and his guys. That was a big move," Harbaugh said. "He's been better than advertised as a leader and as a football leader one day in."

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