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After a 10-month absence that included plenty of outside doubt over whether he’d play football again, Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain has been activated from the physically unable to perform list and will make his return against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
To make room for McClain on the 53-man roster, the Ravens have once again released veteran tight end Billy Bajema. Coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal about the linebacker’s status for Sunday’s game, but McClain needed to be activated by 4 p.m. on Saturday to make him eligible to play against Pittsburgh.
McClain suffered a spinal cord contusion on Dec. 9, 2012 against the Washington Redskins, an injury that ended his season and put his career in jeopardy as he waited for his spinal cord to heal. However, McClain continued to work out and attend team meetings as the Ravens remained positive publicly that he would eventually be cleared.
“They tried to kill me, I’m not dead,” McClain said prior to his long-awaited return to the practice field on Wednesday. “I’m still here, still doing what I love and fighting for this team. There was so much negativity that I couldn’t afford to think negative. All I could do was believe in myself and what I was capable of doing.”
With starting inside linebacker Josh Bynes out for Sunday’s game after undergoing surgery on an infected finger, the need for McClain’s return became even greater after he had a positive week of practice without any setbacks. The sixth-year linebacker was listed as probable on the final injury report of the week despite the Ravens not needing to even include him since he wasn’t on the 53-man roster.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees was matter-of-fact earlier in the week when asked what job McClain will fill upon being activated, which means he will likely start next to inside linebacker Daryl Smith in the base defense with rookie Arthur Brown more involved in the nickel to utilize his athleticism in pass coverage.
“‘Will’ linebacker,” said Pees about McClain’s anticipated role. “If he’s able to go, that will be John’s decision and the trainer’s and everybody else’s decision. It won’t be ours. But if he’s ready to go, we’ll be ready for him to go.”
McClain has started 45 games in his career with the Ravens after joining the organization as an undrafted rookie from Syracuse in 2008.