With Josh Bynes sidelined against the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago, Jameel McClain started at weak-side linebacker and played 30 snaps in his first NFL game since December.
Bynes, who started the first six games of the season, returned to practice this week, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Thursday that the starting job will be McClain’s going forward.
“It’s work. It’s hard work going into it,” McClain said about earning the job back. “I don’t know if I really put thought into how much it really means to me. It’s just a chance for me to go out there and prove myself. When I get the opportunity to go out there and compete for the full length of a game, it will get even better and better for me.”
The 19-16 loss to the Steelers was McClain’s first game since suffering a spinal cord contusion against the Washington Redskins last season. Playing the weak-side linebacker spot next to middle linebacker Daryl Smith, McClain played a little more than half of the team’s defensive snaps and made six tackles.
McClain, who has made 46 starts in his six seasons with the Ravens, checked out fine physically after the game, and he said he is capable of handling a larger workload.
“I’m getting back into my football legs,” McClain said. “I’m getting back into the groove of it better and seeing the plays as fast as I normally seen them. The time was a good time for me.”
Bynes had been playing often on running downs before an infected finger required him to undergo surgery in the days leading up to the Steelers game. Second-round draft pick Arthur Brown had been receiving snaps in passing situations and could continue to play in that sub package.
Asked if it would be a challenge splitting up the snaps at weak-side linebacker between McClain, Bynes and Brown, Pees said it was “a good situation” and that he was “scared to death” of losing an inside linebacker before McClain was cleared to return to action.
“If you want to take Jameel out and give him a break and put Josh in, there’s a comfort level there,” Pees said. “It doesn’t bother me. [Bynes] just played how many games for us and did very, very well inside. To me, it’s a flexibility now that we didn’t have.”