Less than a year ago, a doctor warned Jameel McClain that his football career might be over because of his bruised spinal cord.
The former Ravens inside linebacker, who's now with the New York Giants, delivered a message Saturday at his annual youth football camp at Reisterstown Regional Park about how tough circumstances can change dramatically.
McClain regained his starting job with the Ravens last season and recorded 52 tackles and a forced fumble in 10 starts. After having his contract terminated in late February with one year and a scheduled $3.2 million base salary remaining, he signed a two-year deal with the Giants in March that's worth up to $6 million.
"My message this year is adversity and opportunity, obviously given my situation and life," said McClain, who was joined at his camp by Ravens inside linebacker Josh Bynes. "I figured those two words seemed to be the most appropriate for the situation."
This marked McClain's first camp in the Baltimore area since signing with the Giants. When McClain was with the Ravens, he was one of their most community-oriented players.
"It means a lot because I said as soon as I was leaving that I'm going to stick with this community," McClain said. "I'm going to stick with everything that I've done because I believe in it and we've gotten so much growth out of all of these kids.
"We get such a great response every time from the parents and the kids. It's not something I'm willing to let die. We're going to continue this way beyond my football career."
In six seasons with the Ravens, McClain recorded 338 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one interception, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.
"It's great getting back up with Jameel," Bynes said. "We've talked, of course, this offseason and kept in contact. You find good guys like him, you keep in contact with guys like that.
"It's part of the game. He's having a good time in New York. He's enjoying it. At the same time, we miss him as Ravens. He's my brother still and I'm glad to be out here helping him with his camp."
McClain has been working with the Giants' starting defense, taking over at middle linebacker with Jon Beason sidelined with a foot injury.
"I'm enjoying it," McClain said. "It's a different environment. Sometimes, change is good. Sometimes, you need something to revitalize you and give you a different outlook. It's a professional organization. I have no complaints. I came from one professional organization and went to another one. From that aspect, I've been blessed.
"It's a great opportunity. What we talked about coming in there is they understand the type of player I was and what I could bring to the team. Fortunately, things are going well. We just lost Beason for a little bit. We'll get him back and get everything rolling."
Like McClain, a former undrafted free agent who was homeless for a time as a teenager growing up in Philadelphia and was voted the Ed Block Courage Award by his Ravens teammates, Giants coach Tom Coughlin is a Syracuse alum.
"Tough but fair, that's the saying," McClain said. "Tom is an amazing guy. He's also a Syracuse guy, so I have no complaints."
McClain also weighed in on the Ravens' rocky offseason. Four Ravens were arrested, including running back Ray Rice (felony aggravated assault), offensive lineman Jah Reid (misdemeanor battery), wide receiver Deonte Thompson (felony possession of marijuana) and rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (misdemeanor destruction of property, drunk in public).
Rice and Reid were accepted into pretrial diversion programs and Thompson's charges were dismissed. Taliaferro has a June 26 court date in Williamsburg, Va.
"My perspective is people make mistakes in life," McClain said. "Sometimes, people put players or people in the spotlight or a different pedestal, but these guys are young men. They're men. They're fathers. They're doing everything they can do, but this is not a bad group of people. We all know that.
"Some of them have made some mistakes. Some of them they could have avoided and some that maybe they couldn't have. My message to the fans is, 'Stand by your guys. They stand by you.'"Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun