OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens defense suffered another crippling hit on Monday with the announcement that linebacker Jameel McClain has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a spinal cord contusion.
The fifth-year inside linebacker suffered the injury in Baltimore’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins on Dec. 9 and was ruled out for the Denver game early last week. McClain saw two specialists, including one in Los Angeles over the weekend.
“He’ll be done for the season,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He will not have time to heal before the end of the season.”
With McClain and fellow inside linebackers Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe sidelined for Sunday’s 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Ravens were forced to use the combination of Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan, and Brendon Ayanbadejo at the inside backer positions. Ellerbe tested out his injured ankle prior to being ruled inactive against the Broncos while Lewis remains on injured reserve with the designation to return after suffering a torn right triceps on Oct. 14.
Both Lewis and Ellerbe could return this week to play against the New York Giants, which would provide a major shot in the arm to a struggling defense that allowed 163 rushing yards in their third consecutive loss.
Signed to a new three-year contract last offseason, McClain ranked second on the team with 79 tackles and had three pass breakups in 13 starts this season. The former undrafted free agent from Syracuse was filling in for Lewis at the Mike linebacker position and relaying the defensive calls in the 17-year-linebacker’s absence.
Harbaugh didn’t rule out the possibility of signing another linebacker to take McClain’s place on the roster, but the Ravens are hopeful that Lewis and Ellerbe are close to their respective returns. Baltimore would need to make a roster move to activate Lewis from the IR-designated to return list. Practice squad member Nigel Carr would be the other logical in-house candidate to take McClain’s place on the 53-man roster.
“We might need to [sign somebody],” Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to see how that goes [and] who’s available.”
McClain becomes the third defensive starter from Week 1 to land on IR, joining Lewis and top cornerback Lardarius Webb.