One day after suffering their third straight defeat, the Ravens announced that their already-depleted linebacker corps will be without a key piece for the rest of the year.
Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Jameel McClain will miss the remainder of the season with a spinal cord contusion he suffered against the Redskins.
“He’s seen two specialists now,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll probably not have time to heal before the end of the season.”
McClain started the Ravens’ first 13 games and ranks fourth on the team with 79 tackles. He also has three passes defended.
With McClain out, Terrell Suggs playing through torn biceps, Ray Lewis working to return from torn triceps and Dannell Ellerbe nursing a sprained ankle, Baltimore might need to add reinforcements at linebacker from outside the organization.
“We might need to, yeah,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to see how that goes, see who’s available.”
The most significant new injuries the team is dealing with are the concussions suffered by running back Bernard Pierce and wideout Torrey Smith on Sunday.
“We’ll see as the week goes on how those guys progress with those things,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, those are unpredictable.”
Harbaugh said the team will also have to monitor offensive lineman Marshal Yanda (sprained ankle), safety Bernard Pollard (chest) and tight end Ed Dickson (knee) as the week goes on.
As for the ailing Ravens who returned to the lineup against the Broncos, Harbaugh had mixed reviews.
Suggs was back on the field after a one-week absence, playing his first game since tearing his biceps. He made one tackle.
Suggs appeared to be in pain at times, something Harbaugh disputed.
“I’m not aware of that. ... I’m not aware of the pain,” Harbaugh said. “I thought he played well. I thought he fought and battled out there and he’s got a lot of courage, and he’s a fighter. I like Terrell Suggs. He’s a warrior.”
Cornerback Jimmy Smith also returned after missing five games because of hernia surgery. He made two tackles in limited action.
Harbaugh was unsure whether Smith will increase his workload next week against the Giants.
“We’ll just have to see,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the type of injury where he wasn’t 100 percent out there and that’s something you really don’t know until you get into the game. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as quick as I hoped he would be and I’d like to see how he does this week.”
Harbaugh also spent plenty of time during his Monday press conference talking about the big picture.
The Ravens might be streaking in the wrong direction, having lost three in a row. But they’re still 9-5 and clinched their NFL-best fifth straight playoff berth by virtue of the Steelers’ overtime loss to the Cowboys on Sunday.
Baltimore remains in position to clinch the AFC North if it wins one of its last two games. But there seems to be a different, more negative feel around the squad because it’s backing its way toward the postseason.
So what is Harbaugh’s message to the 9-5 Ravens at this point?
“Get healthy, get better. We’ve got work to do,” he said. “Like we always do, we’re going to do what we do, fight like crazy to become the team we’re capable of becoming. We’re not that team yet. It’s a long season, but all of our goals and all of our dreams are squarely in front of us. That’s what we’re shooting for. ... Coaches and players, we all understand that.”
It got so bad in Sunday’s 34-17 loss that the Ravens faced rare boos from the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium.
Harbaugh said he wasn’t shocked by that, however.
“Where I come from, that’s a pretty normal thing,” Harbaugh joked, referencing his coaching experience in Philadelphia. “That to me, it’s painful. There’s no question about it. It stings, but rightfully so. That’s the way we had played. We had done things that you just can’t do if you want to win a football game against a great team, and we did it at the most inopportune times.
“We did it early, the first drive, and we did it right around halftime. And those are the two situations where you really don’t want those things to happen more than any other situation. So we deserved it and we’ve got to go earn those cheers. That’s up to us.”
Does the team still feel a sense of accomplishment for extending the league’s longest streak of postseason appearances?
“Sure. We’ve owned our (five) losses and we’ve owned the last three losses. We also own the nine wins,” Harbaugh said. “We are what we are, we are what our record says we are and we’re in contention and we’re proud of that. But we know we have to get better and we have to get healthy, and we go to work. That’s what we do.”