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A leaner McClain eager to produce for ravens

Linebacker Jameel McClain talks to reporters at the Ravens' summer training camp following the first day of full-team practice at the Ravens' Owings Mills training facility on Thursday.
Linebacker Jameel McClain talks to reporters at the Ravens' summer training camp following the first day of full-team practice at the Ravens' Owings Mills training facility on Thursday. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

OWINGS MILLS - Just a day after a trimmed down, noticeably lighter Ray Lewis stepped to the podium to address the media, fellow inside linebacker Jameel McClain walked up also sporting a noticeably sleeker, more compact look.

Similar to what Lewis had talked about only a day earlier, McClain said he entered the offseason with a goal of "shedding some pounds, getting ready for this game that's changing."

"I mean, like we all know, it's becoming more of a passing league," said the 27-year old McClain, who inked a three-year, $10.5 million deal in March. "So, the goal is to stay out there as long as you can and still stay strong and get all of those things done. But everybody wants to pass the ball, everyone wants to go no-huddle, so the 255-, 260-pound linebacker, I know those days are disappearing - slowly, but surely."

The 6-foot-1 McClain, without being specific, said he's weighing in somewhere "in the lower 240-245 range." He played last season somewhere around 250 pounds and weighed as much as 255-260 pounds early in his career after playing defensive end at Syracuse.

He finished last season, his fourth in the NFL and second as a full-time starter, with a career-high 84 tackles. He also had one sack, five pass deflections, an interception and two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

Yet, while stout against the run, McClain has been criticized at times for his deficiencies in pass coverage, and felt like that was an area he needed to improve, so he says he spent much of this offseason focused on improving his awareness in pass coverage.

He also pointed to improving himself as a pass rusher as an area he really honed in on, alluding to the fact that there may be more of a role for him as a pass rusher with Terrell Suggs sidelined.

Most importantly to McClain, though, he said he's focused in on becoming even more of a leader on the Ravens' defense, especially after Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding left as free agents.

"We lost some great leaders, so someone has to step up," McClain said. "So I made sure I was here. I made sure I was aware... I'm trying to live by the right example that the Ravens always set."

McClain showed flashes of becoming an improved leader last season, especially during Lewis's late season four-game absence due to a toe injury.

With Lewis out, McClain was responsible for making all of the defensive calls. Baltimore won each of those four games, yielding just 50 total points. McClain also tallied a team-best 32 tackles during that time frame.

"He is becoming one of the top linebackers in football," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of McClain. "I know that's his goal."

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