After 10 months off the football field, the Ravens announced that linebacker Jameel McClain will return to practice Wednesday afternoon.
McClain suffered a spinal cord contusion late last season and hasn't played since Dec. 9 at Washington because of the injury. He was cleared to return to action last week and on the first day he's eligible to practice, he will be doing so.
"Do not know what that means for this week, next week or the week after," coach John Harbaugh said. "We do know that it means within three weeks, we have to make a decision about whether we put him on the 53-man roster. So we'll just have to see how it goes."
McClain was placed on the physically unable to perform list before the season, ruling him out for at least the first six games. A player on the PUP list is able to return to practice following the sixth contest, but as Harbaugh alluded to, teams must determine whether to add that player to the active roster within three weeks of the first day he starts to practice.
McClain said he feels ready to play.
"I felt ready two months ago. So when you ask me, I feel ready all of the time," McClain said Wednesday. "But that decision's not mine and I don't even have to make it. I don't have to worry about it. All I have to worry about is being ready and being in shape."
McClain used strong language when discussing his playing mentality now that he can return to the football field.
"I'm coming back pissed off. That's my mentality. I'm pissed off," he said. "They tried to take away the one thing that I love. So I'm going to take something from them."
Like the Ravens, McClain isn't in a rush. The team has been cautious with the inside linebacker, refusing to consider putting him back on the field until MRIs on his back were clear.
McClain seems to respect that careful approach.
"We'll make the smart moves. We've been making the smart moves the whole time. We're playing it safe, we're playing it the right way," McClain said. "Once again, it's up to the coaches. The decision isn't mine. It's up to all of them. All I can do is prepare, try to put myself in position to not hurt myself, to not hurt the team and to make sure I'm ready whenever."
McClain acknowledged this has been a frustrating experience.
"It was frustrating, but it was educating, too, at that same point," he said. "I got a chance to sit back and look at the game through a different window than I probably would've ever looked at it. From that aspect, it was a blessing, from the point of seeing my team go through some things that I feel like maybe I would've been able to help with, maybe some things that I would've been able to contribute to. That's frustrating, but it's the game. We've all got to sit back at some point. ...
"I want to say it's been scary, but honestly, after all of the stuff that I've been through, it's just docile, as expected. Just when I think I'm doing something, God finds a way to slap me on the back of the head and humble me as much as he can. I would say it's scary, but I always know it was always in his hands anyway."
McClain is no stranger to adversity and the mysterious injury that has sidelined him for the Ravens' last nine regular season games is just the latest for the 28-year-old.
He spent time living in a homeless shelter with his family as a child and then wasn't drafted out of college. McClain made the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and after emerging as a key member of the defense, had his career put in question by the spinal cord contusion.
"I've used pain my whole life to push me to my own greatness, so this is just another set of things, this is another thing that's going to push me or propel me to where I want to be," McClain said. "If (it was) anybody else, they may have handled it different. But I faced all the adversity that they put me in my face and I'm still here smiling, talking to you all, and ready to go to work all over again."
Note: Linebacker Josh Bynes has an infection in a finger that he cut a couple of weeks ago and was in the hospital Tuesday night. Harbaugh said Bynes received good news that the infection is clearing up and will rejoin the team today.
Update: Bynes (infected finger), defensive lineman Chris Canty (thigh) and linebacker Albert McClellan (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday.
However, McClain was a full participant while defensive tackle Terrence Cody (knee) returned in a limited capacity. Cornerback Chykie Brown (thigh), center Ryan Jensen (foot), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (elbow), linebacker Courtney Upshaw (foot) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (thigh) were also limited.
Defensive tackle Marcus Spears (knee) and wideout Brandon Stokley (thigh) practiced fully.