'McClain 4 RB' has nice ring to it

Le'Ron McClain's desire for more carries on the field has gone online, where the Ravens fullback has launched a Twitter campaign to play running back.

The self-started movement on the popular social network — which has been dubbed "MCCLAIN 4 RB" — has caught the attention of fans, coach John Harbaugh and even owner Steve Bisciotti.

"[Bisciotti] asked me if I needed a campaign manager," McClain said.

The two-time Pro Bowl fullback made it clear that he doesn't want to supplant starting running back Ray Rice. He just wants more opportunities.

When the Ravens went to the AFC championship game two seasons ago, McClain was the team's leading rusher, gaining 902 yards on 232 carries. Last season, the full-time move back to fullback dropped his yards rushing to 180 and his carries to 46. He watched Rice enjoy a breakout season (2,041 yards from scrimmage) and Willis McGahee score 14 touchdowns.

"It gets frustrating sometimes," McClain said, "but I'm a team player."

In the past, players would express their frustration to the coach or vent to the media. Instead, McClain went to the Web, which has created a stir among his 4,000 followers (his Twitter account is named "BringdaPain33").

One fan sent him a poster where McClain is superimposed on Uncle Sam, with the words "I want you to vote McClain 4 RB" underneath. McClain has talked about putting fliers on cars and handing out T-shirts.

It has become a running joke among all of the running backs.

"They understand it's all fun and games, and we're just out here competing," McClain said. "You know, we've only got one ball and only one person can get it. So I hope I'll be that one person."

Whether his creative approach will work won't be determined for months. Harbaugh said the distribution of carries will be decided by training camp, not text messages.

During Tuesday's passing camp, McClain worked primarily as a fullback despite the absence of McGahee. The Ravens went with Rice, Jalen Parmele and undrafted rookie Curtis Steele at tailback.

But Harbaugh said he isn't upset with McClain's campaign after a "light-hearted" meeting with the fullback.

"He's having fun with it," Harbaugh said. "I want him to want more carries and want more plays. I want him to want to be out on the punt team and the kickoff team. You like guys who want to play. If he wants to campaign for more carries, have at it."

Does McClain have a chance to increase his carries this season?

"We'll see how it all shakes out through training camp," Harbaugh said. "The guys that give us the best chance to gain yards are going to be the guys who will be out there."

The 6-foot, 260-pound fullback said he has "a good shot" at boosting his touches.

"Not taking anything away from Ray Rice, I know he's the starter, I know he's the player and I block for him," McClain said. "But I'm just trying to get back to where I was my second year, just getting a few carries. Not taking anything away from my blocking at fullback, but just trying to do more to get our team over the hump to get to [the Super Bowl in] Dallas."

If this campaign works, his next one might be a long-term deal.

McClain has yet to sign his one-year, $2.396 million tender as a restricted free agent because he wants a new contract. It was three years ago when former Raven Ovie Mughelli signed the largest contract for a fullback, receiving a six-year, $18 million deal from the Atlanta Falcons.

"I'm hoping my folks — my agent and them — come to something," McClain said. "If they don't, I really don't know what the future holds. I love Baltimore. I want to be in Baltimore. I've made it my home."

Notes: The Ravens are taking their time with Jared Gaither after the offensive tackle received a cortisone shot in his foot. He needs time "to let it settle down and let it heal," Harbaugh said. Gaither has missed every practice since bowing out early in the first minicamp practice of the offseason with a bruised foot. He is also having orthotics placed in his shoes. "I think he's anxious to get back and practice," Harbaugh said. "He should be back there practicing pretty soon." … Wide receiver Mark Clayton (shoulder) and safety Haruki Nakamura (ankle) both returned to participate in their first offseason camp. … Backup quarterback Troy Smith returned to practice after missing just one passing camp following the removal of his tonsils. Smith missed the first five games of the 2008 season because of a severe case of tonsillitis. He then dealt with a small bout of tonsillitis and recently had strep throat. "I just decided that this was enough," Smith said of his decision to have his tonsils removed. … Now that New York has been awarded the Super Bowl for 2014, Harbaugh wants one in Baltimore. "Baltimore built a stadium, put a lot of money into a brand new stadium," Harbaugh said. "So you start bringing it up here, I think we want one. But the main thing we're concerned with is getting into the Super Bowl. We try to take care of that first as a football team." … Veterans who skipped passing camp were: wide receiver Anquan Boldin, linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs; defensive ends Cory Redding and Trevor Pryce; and running back Willis McGahee. … Players who were sidelined with injuries: safety Ed Reed (hip); cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (knee) and Fabian Washington (knee); nose tackles Kelly Gregg (shoulder) and Brandon McKinney (back); defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (chest); linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps); offensive tackles Jared Gaither (foot), Oniel Cousins (strep throat) and Ramon Harewood (knee); and reserve wide receiver Maurice Price (ankle). Tight end Todd Heap was limited Tuesday but he said that he will fully participate today. Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (shoulder) was also limited.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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