From left, Ravens defenders Jameel McClain, Ray Lewis and Terrell… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
Jameel McClain can only hope that opposing offenses fail to account for him the way the media did this past offseason.
While much of the focus for the starting inside linebacker position was on Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe, McClain opened Ravens training camp at McDaniel College in Westminster by lining up next to 11-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis on the first defense.
McClain, entering his third season since being signed as an undrafted rookie in 2008, conceded that he was somewhat surprised at his inclusion with the starting unit.
"At the end of the day, you never know what to expect, and you never know what's really going to happen," he said. "So I just prepared myself for all of the positions, and once we came in, they [the coaches] told us their decision."
The inside linebacker spot hasn't entirely belonged to McClain, who has been rotating with Gooden and Ellerbe. Still, McClain was considered to be an afterthought with Gooden making 12 starts and Ellerbe making the last five, including in the team's two playoff contests.
McClain said the lack of attention never bothered him.
"Tavares and Dannell, they're great players," McClain said. "... I'm good at what I do, too. At the end of the day, I'm a guy that's never been given anything. I was never voted as anybody's favorite in the beginning anyway. So it's always been earned. So I'm not really the type of guy to pay attention to anything that's been said."
With Gooden, Ellerbe and Brendon Ayanbadejo (who remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list) in the mix, McClain knows there's no room for being content. In fact, he won't even assess his performance thus far.
"It's not for me to assess," he said. "I don't analyze it until it's all over. If there's smoke in the air and everyone is screaming at the Jets game and I'm one of the guys running out of the tunnel for the starting defense, that's when I'll assess it. But right now, I'm just keeping my head down and keeping on trucking because there's a lot of great competition. All we can do is keep playing and let the coaches make the decision."
Moll fills in at RT
With offensive tackles Jared Gaither (leg cramps) and Oniel Cousins (throat) unavailable for practice Saturday morning, Tony Moll joined guards Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda, left tackle Michael Oher and center Chris Chester on the first offensive line.
The 6-foot-5, 311-pound Moll has made 11 of his career 18 starts at right guard, but the other seven starts came at right tackle. Still, he appeared a little rusty Saturday morning, getting flagged for a false start and getting beat by linebacker Jarret Johnson for a sack.
But Moll, a veteran entering his fifth season who played in five games last season, sounded confident that he can improve and become a capable backup.
"I think I've had a really good offseason and was really able to dig in the playbook and master it even more than I had before," said Moll, who did not practice in the afternoon for unspecified reasons. "I definitely can hold my own in there."
Zbikowski finding comfort level
With six-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed recovering from offseason hip surgery, Tom Zbikowski has lined up beside strong safety Dawan Landry with the first defense.
But unlike last season, Zbikowski, who had two interceptions and 14 tackles in four starts last season in Reed's place, said he is now accustomed to his role.
"I was in rotation, mini-camp and stuff doing it, and then the time I got in when he was out last year, so I feel comfortable," Zbikowski said. "I know all the guys in the lineup and everything like that. You're obviously not going to replace an Ed Reed, so I have to bring my own game and play the way I play."
No early end to kicking competition
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said he doesn't expect the kicking competition to be decided until the end of the preseason "because I think both kickers are really good."
Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff are battling for the job in training camp. Both will take turns with different snappers and different linemen.
"We're going to make it as balanced and fair as we possibly can," Rosburg said, adding that he will be placing more importance on their results in preseason games than training camp. "Once the dust settles, I think we'll have our kicker."
Dickson absorbs new status and number
When the first offense took the field at McDaniel College in Westminster over the past two days, rookie Ed Dickson was there, filling in for Todd Heap, who was placed on the non-football illness list Thursday.
"The first team is definitely a second faster than the second team is," Dickson said. "I just go in there and do the things that I know I can do best."
Dickson is wearing No. 83, which he acquired from fellow tight end Davon Drew, who is now wearing No. 80, Dickson's previous number. The cost?