Jameel McClain’s return provides Ravens defense with a lift

Jameel McClain’s return to game action last week meant more to the Ravens than the six tackles he provided.

The sixth-year linebacker fought back from a spinal cord contusion - an injury at least one doctor cautioned could be career-ending - to take the field for the first time in 10 months last Sunday in Pittsburgh. Having not played since Dec. 9, 2012, McClain didn’t just take a few snaps and ease back in; he started and played extensively.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees was among those left impressed.

“Amazing. For a guy to be out 10 months and come back and practice three days and play 28 plays in that game, amazing,” Pees said. “I’ve seen one other guy do it - (New England’s Tedy) Bruschi after he had a stroke. And I saw Jameel do it here. This guy had been told a few months back he was never going to play football again. So, to mentally stay that into it and that in tune and have no missed assignments in that game whatsoever - you could tell he was a little tentative maybe in taking on some blocks at times, but I don’t think it was because he was scared. He just hadn’t been out there doing it. It was more that than I didn’t see anything backing off. That’s an amazing feat to me.”

Defensive lineman Art Jones, a teammate of McClain’s dating back to their two years together at Syracuse, shared similar feelings about the linebacker’s return after sitting out so long.

“It’s insane, but he watched film all the time. He’s a true professional. He did extra cardio. He did everything he possibly could do, the doctor allowed him to do, and I’m just happy to have my friend back,” Jones said.

“The guy has always been a hard worker since I’ve known him in college. The guy works his tail off and whatnot, and I’m happy that he’s back. He did a great job for his first game back, of just going out there and giving all he’s got. He’s just such a hard worker and I always knew that whatever he put his mind to, he could accomplish anything.”

Jones, who had his own health scare earlier this year with an elevated heart rate, believes McClain provides the defense with both a lift in talent and emotion because of everything he went through to play football again.

“Jameel brings energy. He’s a guy who I love to watch him play and I love playing (in front of) him,” Jones said. “I have no worries with him back there - not to say that I had worries before with anybody else, but he’s a guy that I’ve played so long with, in college and whatnot. I’m happy to have my brother back out there playing.”