After finding trouble off the field with the Oakland Raiders, middle linebacker Rolando McClain and the Ravens are hoping that a fresh start will pay dividends this fall.
The Super Bowl champions have made a low-risk investment in McClain, signing the 2010 Raiders first-round draft pick from Alabama to a one-year contract with a base value of $700,000 and a maximum value of $1.1 million if he triggers $400,000 of playtime incentives.
"As far as how he's going to conduct himself here, he's coming here just to be a part of this football team," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said today in his first remarks since signing McClain, a consensus All-American and Butkus Award winner at Alabama. "I think the guys in the locker room will be able to provide him with the proper guidance that he needs as to the way john wants his football team and football players to be."
When asked initially about how McClain will fit in with the defense, Newsome replied: "Rolando is being given an opportunity to come in and make our 53-man squad. That's it."
McClain was suspended for two games last season for conduct detrimental to the team when he clashed with coach Dennis Allen when he was demoted from the starting lineup. He has struggled in pass coverage.
A misdemeanor assault case against McClain in his hometown of Decatur, Ala. was dismissed last year when the alleged victim, a former high school classmate of McClain, declined to go forward with the case after reaching a financial settlement with the NFL player.
McClain had been facing third-degree assault, reckless endangerment, illegal discharge of a firearm and menacing charges. McClain allegedly threatened to kill the man and fired a gun next to his head during a fight two years ago.
McClain was initially convicted of four misdemeanors, but appealed the verdict and the case is now resolved.
A Hall of Fame tight end with the Cleveland Browns who launched his career starring at Alabama for the late Bear Bryant, Newsome said he didn't rely strictly on his connections to his alma mater when performing his due diligence on McClain.
He consulted with Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz, an Auburn graduate.
"The first person I talked to about Rolando was Joe Hortiz and he went to Auburn," Newsome said. "Joe has a very good relationship with the people who work at the University of Alabama. He's able to get great information, so Joe was the first person I talked to about Rolando."