Update: Ravens and CMac spoke…team now “evaluating” McAlister

December 21, 2009 | Drew Forrester

At the beginning of the pre-season, a media member asked John Harbaugh if there was a still a chance the team might sign Chris McAlister.

The answer was a resounding, “no”.

A month ago when Fabian Washington tore his ACL, the subject was again brought up.  Could McAlister be a replacement?  Again, it was a quick “no” from the Head Coach.

With Lardarius Webb now out with an ACL tear (another story “won” by WNST, in case you’re keeping count…) and a huge game in Pittsburgh looming this Sunday, the Ravens can either stay with what they have or look elsewhere.  And if they decide to look elsewhere, McAlister’s name is sure to come up.

It already came up last night, in fact.  Sources tell WNST.net that McAlister spoke with a team official on Sunday night after the Ravens beat the Bears, 31-7.  The call could have been nothing more than a check to see if McAlister was around – in these parts – in the event the team wanted to give him a physical or have a cup of coffee with him today.  Who knows?  But we’re hearing a team official spoke with McAlister last night.

And now, I hear they’re evaluating McAlister today, along with several other free agents.  The most-used buzz word at 1 Winning Drive is the word: process.  Every decision made by the Ravens goes through a specific process.  This decision – to add someone or not, to add McAlister or not – goes through a well-defined process by a number of people involved in football operations.

Let’s not forget something.  It’s not a slam-dunk that Chris McAlister WOULD come back and play here for the last two games, plus the post-season, possibly.

McAlister wasn’t pleased with the way things ended in Baltimore and it might take a mea culpa of Tiger Woods-proportions from John Harbaugh to get CMac soft enough to say “OK” to a return…particularly in light of the fact he’d be going into the lion’s den at Heinz Field on Sunday trying to help the guy who gave him the boot…the Head Coach.

“Evaluating” is an interesting word.  Both McAlister and the Ravens are probably doing some evaluating today.

I don’t know if John Harbaugh will give any insight today when he meets with the media at 3:45 pm.  He might again say “no” to Chris McAlister. He might use the word “evaluating”.  He might say, “we’ll let you know on Wednesday”.

Evidently, though, it hasn’t been a definite “no” this morning in Owings Mills.

At this stage, given the injuries to Washington and Webb, the Ravens almost have to at least CONSIDER McAlister, no matter what Harbaugh said in August and again in November.

John Harbaugh might very well just stick to his guns here — and say to the staff at Owings Mills, “We’re 8-6 WITHOUT him…we can go to Pittsburgh and win with what we have.”

And he might very well believe that.

And he might be right.

And there’s most certainly an argument that Chris McAlister is no better – at week #15 of the season and having played sparingly for the Saints for a couple of weeks – than anyone the Ravens have on their roster right now.  Yes, that even includes Frank Walker.

It’s easy to say, “McAlister is better than Frank Walker or Chris Carr no matter what kind of shape he’s in…”

But that’s actually not true.   You have to be fit to play in the NFL.  In all fairness, McAlister’s fitness was questioned a lot when he WAS a starter…just think how fit he is right now having not really played this season, except for the brief stint in New Orleans.

On the other hand, McAlister forgot more about Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes than Frank Walker and Chris Carr know — combined.  He won’t need to study much film on those two this week.  He was always one of the smartest guys in the locker room when he was on the team…sometimes too smart for his own good, his detractors would say.  But if any defensive back in the league can come in off the couch and tee it up against the Steelers on Sunday and have a puncher’s chance at success, it’s McAlister.

Is he better than Frank Walker or Chris Carr?

No one knows.  Really, you don’t.  If he’s not fit, the gamble isn’t worth taking…because over a 60-minute football game, his lack of fitness will be exposed.

But if McAlister is relatively fit and can prove that to the coaching staff, he might be more valuable on Sunday than Walker or Carr.

This one’s tough on John Harbaugh.

He was emphatic earlier this season that Chris McAlister’s days in Baltimore were over.

Now…as luck would have it…he needs someone in the secondary for what amounts to a near-playoff game in Pittsburgh six days from now.

Could that someone be Chris McAlister?

Sure, it could be.

After all, they’re evidently “evaluating” him as I write this.

My guess?  And it’s merely that…a guess.

The evaluation will end with the Ravens saying “no” again.  It’s unlike John Harbaugh to buckle.  And that’s what he’d be doing if he said “yes” to McAlister’s return.

We’ll find out soon enough.