Le'Ron McClain hopes to return to Ravens, but prepared for the alternative

If Le'Ron McClain could craft how the next few months of his life would go, he would re-sign with the Ravens, get a chunk of the reps as the team's running back and also serve as a blocking fullback, and continue to spend time with teammates he loves in a city he enjoys.

McClain is aware, however, that things might not work out that way.

An unrestricted free agent, the four-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowl fullback will be a part of the free-for-all which will ensue once the NFL lockout finally ends, and while he says he's relished his time in Baltimore, other factors will be at play as he begins the contract negotiation process.

Paramount among those factors, in McClain's mind, is his involvement in the offense when it comes to carrying the ball. After getting 232 carries for 902 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008, McClain was used more as a traditional fullback the last two years, recording just 74 carries for 265 yards and two touchdowns from 2009-2010.

"It's very, very important to me, because they gave me the opportunity (to get carries as a running back) in '08, and I think I did a good job of that," McClain told me Wednesday in a phone interview. "I stepped up to the punch and did a great job, and in '09 and 2010, they put me back at fullback. It didn't bother my game, because I still went out there and gave 110 percent every game, blocked my butt off for those guys, and tried to do whatever I could.

"The sick feeling that I have in my stomach when I go out and train is, when I talked to (head coach John) Harbaugh after the Pittsburgh game (in the AFC Divisional Round last season) and I was just telling him I wish I could've done more. I wish I could've been more involved. I don't know if that would've changed the outcome of the game, but who would know? I just don't want to have that feeling no more, at the end of the season or anything. I just want to feel when I walk off that field like I did everything I could. I couldn't do that because I was in that box.

Le'Ron_McClain-tall.jpg"No disrespect to anybody, not (offensive coordinator) Cam Cameron, not John Harbaugh, not Ray Rice, because that's my partner. Willis (McGahee) - that's my partner. No disrespect to that. I just don't want to disrespect my game anymore, like I feel like I've done these last two years."

Throughout the offseason, McClain has been getting some encouragement from former Ravens fullback Lorenzo Neal, who was McClain's lead blocker during part of that '08 campaign. McClain has also been working with trainer Roland Burks near McClain's home in Alabama, and he says he's fit and ready for action whenever the lockout happens to end.

"(Neal has) been telling me, 'You can be a running back in this league, you just need to work for it daily,'" McClain said. "That's been in my head every day. I'm leaner, I'm in some of the best shape I've ever been in, and I'm just ready for my opportunity."

With Willis McGahee, the Ravens' No. 2 running back the last couple seasons, unlikely to return to the team next season, there seems to be a need for an experienced, power runner in the Ravens' backfield. While being sure not to touch the issue of McGahee's uncertain future with the Ravens, McClain says that he thinks he could fill that potential void in Baltimore.

"If that opportunity comes, I feel like I can step in and do that and continue to bring that spark, stepping up into that second running back role, and still being that fullback," McClain said. "I love that offense, man. I've been running that (same) offense since college. I know it like the back of my hand. I just want to get back into that groove, man."

Then, there's the city of Baltimore, a place the southern born and bred McClain has grown to enjoy.

"That's home, man," McClain said. "Every time I say I'm getting ready to go home (while I'm in Alabama), they say you already are home. I say, 'Nah, I got to get back to Baltimore.' I know the places, know the city, and it would be a big transformation starting over with another team, but it's part of the business. You've got to be prepared for that when you step up to this level."

McClain will be back in the Baltimore area next week for his two-day youth football camp at Goucher College July 18 and 19. During the camp, he will instruct kids ages 7-18 on offensive and defensive skills, how to choose a good role model and good sportsmanship, an experience that McClain says he loves.

A fourth-round pick in 2007, the 26-year-old admits he's looking forward to the free agency process, both for financial and on-the-field reasons. Coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances, McClain has a chance to score a nice multi-year contract, but will also likely get to pick which free agent suitor represents the best chance for him to get the carries which he feels he's earned.

The question is whether the Ravens will end up being the team with which he eventually signs.

"Having the opportunity for a better financial situation for my family and myself (is important)," McClain said. "Hopefully, I'll be better involved (offensively) with the Ravens, or take it to another team and make that transformation. Talking with other teams and playing with other players.

"There's pros both ways. I'm just ready for the opportunity whatever way it calls."

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