McClain comfortable filling Ray Lewis' shoes

McClain comfortable filling Ray Lewis' shoes
November 8, 2012, 9:15 pm
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Now that he's in the "Mike" position, Jameel McClain is making himself heard even more.

That's saying something since McClain doesn't hesitate to be vocal.

The replacement for Ray Lewis at middle linebacker, or the "Mike" because he's the one player who wears an electronic communicator and relays the plays to the defense, McClain has teammates over to his house to break down film while Lewis is likely done for the season with a torn triceps.

"It's important for me to let these guys know that I'm here. I'm here for us to be successful, for us to do the right things," McClain, in his fifth season, said of the NFL's 26th-ranked defense. "I've never been a player that cared about all the in-between. I play this game for the respect. The respect of all my peers is all that's ever mattered to me in this game. And that's basically what our dinners are, our meetings are, consistently at my house.

"To be able to draw all those guys to come in and watch film with me and even break bread with me, it's important. It's a step in the right direction for the defense. More importantly its a step in the right direction for the young guys. We all get to see how we get on the same page. I want to see how you're going to play a play so I'll know how I'll play it off you."

McClain played weakside linebacker, or Will, but filled in for Lewis went he went down last season with a toe injury. The Ravens were 4-0 during that stretch as they finished 12-4 and advanced to the AFC title game. They're 1-1 this season and in first place in the AFC North at 6-2.

In the last three games, McClain has 18 tackles. He expected to be in this position eventually with Lewis being in his 17th season.

"If people view me as a leader than so be it. ... I'm my own individual and I just like to do things the way I like to do things. I talked to Ray after the game to see what he sees because I know he's watching," said McClain, who last talked with Lewis after the Ravens' 43-13 loss at the Houston Texans going into the bye week. "While we're on the bus going back to the airport, I'm watching film and I'm talking ot Ray to see what he thought. That's just the normal communication that we have within our linebacker group."

The Ravens had given up an average of 207 yards rushing in a three-game span before last week's 25-15 win at the Cleveland Browns. They held them to 116 yards, which is still well above the 92.6 the Ravens allowed last season, but it represents a positive sign.

"Even when I was playing Will, I was preparing for Mike. This started my rookie year. It didn't just come from last year," McClain said. "Everybody understands it's time for you to be even more accountable than you were before. As you could see we took a step in the right direction. ...

"I've seen Ray for 5 years. I know what it is to be a leader."