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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Throughout the offseason, the Ravens expressed optimism that inside linebacker Jameel McClain would be ready to play by the start of training camp after suffering a bruised spinal cord that ended his 2012 season prematurely.
A day after the sixth-year linebacker was placed on the physically unable to perform list to begin camp, coach John Harbaugh acknowledged McClain hasn’t progressed as far as doctors anticipated he would by this time, leaving his status in question for the foreseeable future. McClain injured his neck in a loss to the Washington Redskins on Dec. 9 and was placed on injured reserve later in the month.
McClain will turn 28 later this week and was in attendance for most organized team activities in the spring, but was limited to individual work on the side and didn’t take part in team drills.
“Jameel is a tougher one to predict because he’s got the back issue. It’s a spinal cord issue,” Harbaugh said Tuesday on the first day of camp open to media. “So, that just has to heal. Until that heals and we have proof that it’s healed, he’s not going to be out there.”
The top candidates in the inside linebacker mix include second-round selection Arthur Brown, who is fully recovered from sports hernia surgery, and former Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith, who was signed to a one-year deal in early June. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said this spring that McClain would be a starter when healthy but with his slower-than-expected recovery, the Ravens must now look more closely at other options should he not be ready for the start of the season.
McClain started 44 of the 45 games he played over the last three seasons, so the Ravens are still hoping to take advantage of his experience after the retirement of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and the free-agent departure of Dannell Ellerbe.
“Doctors had anticipated he would be out there at this time,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a little slower than we had hoped. When he’s ready, he’ll be out there. He’s going to continue to take some more tests. He’ll take some more tests [Wednesday], and we’ll have more for you on that on Thursday.”
In addition to McClain, Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda was placed on the active PUP list to begin camp as he continues to rehabilitate his surgically-repaired shoulder. Harbaugh said Yanda is “doing great” and will be involved during individual periods and walk-throughs until he’s ready to return to the practice field on a full-time basis.
According to the Baltimore coach, no other players will be placed on the active PUP list due to health concerns, which is good news for cornerback Lardarius Webb after he took part in Tuesday’s practice in a limited role. The fifth-year defensive back worked on a limited basis throughout OTAs after working his way back from last October’s ACL surgery.
“We will bring him along as we see fit, but you saw him out there today,” Harbaugh said. “He’s doing well.”
Defensive tackles Haloti Ngata (knee) and Terrence Cody (hip surgery), linebacker Albert McClellan, and offensive lineman Antoine McClain took part in Tuesday’s practice to varying levels of participation, meaning each will avoid the PUP list after dealing with health concerns in the offseason.
Veteran tight end Ed Dickson was also present and working on Tuesday after he suffered a minor groin strain at the end of mandatory minicamp in mid-June.
Harbaugh didn’t express great concern over wide receiver Jacoby Jones failing the team’s mandatory conditioning test on Monday, but he wasn’t offering any justification for the veteran, who is expected to have the inside track on the starting job opposite Torrey Smith in the first-team offense. Jones will retake the test on Wednesday when the rest of the veterans report to Owings Mills.
“I won’t make any excuses for him,” Harbaugh said. “He should pass it, but he’s battling. We’ll see — it’s up to him. It’s his job to do. That’s the facts. Facts are stubborn things.”
Jones was placed on the non-football injury list on Monday, which is a designation that can be used for any player who fails the conditioning test as well as for those who suffer an injury away from team headquarters.
Tuesday’s practice was reserved for quarterbacks, rookies, and select veterans coming off injuries.
Elam heavier in wallet, lighter on feet
Fresh off officially signing his rookie contract earlier in the week, first-round safety Matt Elam acknowledged he saved “a lot of money” by not hiring an agent to help complete the four-year, $6.767 million contract that includes a team option for a fifth year.
Elam relied on his older brother Abe Elam, who has also played in the NFL, as well as others who offered advice, ranging from those closest to him to attorneys to various NFL players currently in the league. The University of Florida product stands to save roughly $200,000 over the length of the contract by passing on formal representation.
Due to the NFL’s slotting system for rookie contracts, most of the drama has been eliminated from post-draft negotiations after years of holdouts and record-setting deals for top picks.
“I felt like I built the team that helped me learn a lot of things about a contract,” said Elam, who was complimented by Harbaugh for the way he handled negotiations. “I knew all the language and everything about the contract.”
Though Elam gained extra money in his wallet, he elected to drop some weight before the start of training camp to be lighter on his feet as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL.
The 32nd overall pick told reporters he lost eight pounds over the summer and is playing at roughly 200 pounds to begin training camp.
“I just go out there and keep on improving to be the best I can be,” said Elam, who is expected to start at strong safety as a rookie. “People have high expectations for me. They want me to do great things, but I’ve got to live up to my own expectations.”
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