With three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker C.J. Mosley missing a game for the first time since 2016 because of a bone bruise in his left knee, McClellan joined rookie Kenny Young to fill the interior portion of the defense’s linebacker corps and finished with one tackle in his first start since Dec. 18, 2016.
“I can’t tell you how great it was,” he said afterward. “I had a little rust to shake off, a couple of those plays in the beginning, but it all worked out well.”
McClellan, an eight-year veteran who had joined the organization in 2010 as an undrafted rookie, had missed the entire 2017 season because of a torn ACL in his right knee. Despite a solid training camp, the 32-year-old was waived Sept. 1 in favor of 23-year-old undrafted rookie Chris Board.
But after Mosley injured his left knee in the first quarter of a 34-23 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 13, McClellan was brought back. He said he spent the time off preparing for a possible comeback.
“I kept working out, staying in shape and waiting for that next phone call,” he said. “Like I always say, as an undrafted guy, you have to be ready. There’s no time to sit around and pout. Just be ready and wait for that next phone call.”
McClellan, one of four team captains for the game, was part of a rotation that included rookie Kenny Young, who made a team-high 10 tackles in his first career start, and Patrick Onwuasor, who made his first NFL interception.
Coach John Harbaugh said Anthony Levine Sr. also lined up at linebacker in the defense’s dime packages.
“I think Albert was in there more in the base stuff than some of the run stuff,” Harbaugh said. “And those other guys were playing run- and pass-type situations. … We had a number of players in at linebacker to make up for the shortfall of [not having] C.J. All of those guys seem like they did a really good job.”
McClellan said rotating the linebackers was significant considering that he, Young, Onwuasor and Levine also played special teams.
“The rotation is just smart and shows how deep we can go in our depth at linebacker,” he said. “It’s good to have as a team. It makes the team better.”