Remaining a Raven was a priority for Jameel McClain

When Jameel McClain was an unrestricted free agent in March, there was a sentiment that the inside linebacker, who had started 31 of the Ravens’ 32 games over the past two seasons, could be courted by a pair of former defensive-coordinators-turned-head-coaches in the New York JetsRex Ryan and the Indianapolis ColtsChuck Pagano.

Pagano presented an especially interesting option, as he had been the team’s defensive coordinator until Indianapolis hired him away Jan. 25. But McClain said he wasn’t too intrigued about playing for the Colts because of his desire to remain with the Ravens.

“I didn’t really put any consideration into it,” he said prior to participating in Lardarius Webb’s charity softball game at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen on Sunday afternoon. “Pagano’s a great coach, so anybody would love to play for him. But I was always intrigued with being a Raven. That’s what I’ve always wanted to be. So I can’t say that in the back of my mind, I thought about it. I already know Pagano. It’s always easy for people to think about what’s comfortable for them out there.”

McClain, who joined the organization as an undrafted rookie in 2008, was second on the NFL’s third-ranked defense with 81 tackles. He also finished the regular season with one sack, one interception, a career-high five passes defensed and two fumble recoveries, including one that he returned for a touchdown in the team’s victory over the New York Jets on Oct. 2.

McClain was crucial to the Ravens during fellow inside linebacker Ray Lewis’ four-game absence with a toe injury. In those four games, McClain made 32 tackles while making all the defensive calls in victories against the Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts.

Even with Dean Pees succeeding Pagano as the Ravens defensive coordinator, McClain said his first preference was to stay in Baltimore.

“Why wouldn’t I? This is home to me,” he said. “This is where I want to be. This is where I’ve always wanted to be. So of course, I definitely have a comfort level.”

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