‘Demigod’ en­joy­ing his time as start­ing LB

McClel­lan gets long-awaited re­turn to de­fen­sive lineup with Dumervil in re­cov­ery

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

It was worth the wait for line­backer Al­bert McClel­lan.

In the three sea­sons since he had last started for the Ravens, McClel­lan did not cause a stir. In­stead, he kept his eyes on his work, de­vel­op­ing him­self into a stand­out on spe­cial teams.

But dur­ing that time, McClel­lan’s am­bi­tion to be a start­ing line­backer never wa­vered, and he was re­warded Sun­day when he started at out­side line­backer in place of the in­jured Elvis Dumervil in the team’s 13-7 sea­sonopen­ing win against the Buf­falo Bills at M&T Bank Sta­dium.

For McClel­lan, it was a re­ward for seven years of toil­ing in the back­ground.

“It means a lot,” McClel­lan said af­ter Wed­nes­day’s prac­tice at the Ravens’ train­ing fa­cil­ity. “I’ve been here a long time. It’s my sev­enth sea­son with the Ravens. So it means a lot to be named a start­ing out­side line­backer. It’s a great ac­com­plish­ment. Now I’ve just got to fo­cus on get­ting bet­ter so that I can stay out there.”

While McClel­lan might not be well­known na­tion­ally (or even lo­cally) when Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Chs. 13, 9 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 6

com­pared with de­fen­sive team­mates such as fel­low out­side lineback­ers Ter­rell Suggs and Dumervil, and strong safety Eric Wed­dle, he is well-liked in the locker room.

“We have a lot of trust in him,” said in­side line­backer C.J. Mosley, adding that McClel­lan is nick­named “The Demigod” be­cause of his mus­cu­lar 6-foot-2, 250-pound frame. “It’s not too of­ten that you see a lot of out­side lineback­ers in the league that can pass rush, set the edge on the run and get out in pass cov­er­age. He does have a great abil­ity.”

Un­drafted out of Mar­shall in 2010, McClel­lan started 12 games in 2012 at in­side line­backer, fin­ish­ing with a ca­reer-high 42 tack­les and one sack. McClel­lan, who has two ca­reer sacks, al­most got his third against the Bills but was un­able to bring down quar­ter­back Ty­rod Tay­lor in the sec­ond quar­ter.

McClel­lan, who made two tack­les, in­clud­ing one for a loss, Sun­day, blamed him­self for try­ing to strip Tay­lor of the foot­ball rather than just tack­ling the quar­ter­back, who had played for the Ravens from 2011 to 2014.

“He’s elu­sive,” McClel­lan said. “He’s what I guess you could call a wa­ter­bug back there. I shouldn’t have matched his hands. I went to match his hands and cause a fum­ble ver­sus tak­ing a good, clean hit. I went to match the ball, and he tucked it and used my mo­men­tum to shrug me off. That’s good on his part, but next time, un­less I’ve got a sure chance to get the ball off of him, I’ve got to take the hit in­stead of try­ing to make a play.”

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dean Pees said he has been most im­pressed by McClel­lan’s in­tel­li­gence.

“There are cer­tain play­ers that have to go out and they have to do rep­e­ti­tions in prac­tice to make sure they’ve got it,” Pees said. “Al­bert’s not one of those guys. Al­bert’s one of those guys on the side­line who, when you tell to him, ‘We want to do this, we want to do that,’ he goes out and gets it done. In ev­ery facet, he’s tough, he’s smart, and he plays with ef­fort. That’s the only three things you can ask of a guy.”

McClel­lan is en­joy­ing his time as a starter, which will likely de­pend on Dumervil’s re­cov­ery from off­sea­son foot surgery.

Dumervil is un­likely to play in Sun­day’s road opener against the Cleve­land Browns, which means McClel­lan is poised to make his sec­ond straight start.

McClel­lan said mem­o­ries of his mother, Constance Barr, who died of can­cer in 2010, and chal­lenges over­come by other fam­ily mem­bers in­spired him to re­main hope­ful about a re­turn to the start­ing lineup.

“I’m al­ways go­ing to fight for what I want, what I be­lieve in,” McClel­lan said. “Some of my role mod­els grow­ing up were fight­ers. I look at pic­tures and stuff of those peo­ple in my life to know to keep fight­ing for what I want and what I be­lieve in.”

Like any player, McClel­lan might have pre­ferred a faster rise to be­ing a starter. But he sounded con­tent with the path his ca­reer has taken, which in­cludes be­ing just one of nine play­ers left on the ros­ter who helped the fran­chise cap­ture its sec­ond Su­per Bowl ti­tle to cap the 2012 sea­son.

“Yeah, you want it to be a lot quicker, a lot sooner than later, but there must have been a plan for some­one else so that he had his chance,” McClel­lan said. “I’m not go­ing to rush any­thing. So the time is here now. So I’ve got to live with it and live up to it.”

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Al­bert McClel­lan (50) is nick­named “The Demigod” be­cause of his mus­cu­lar frame. “It’s not too of­ten that you see a lot of out­side lineback­ers in the league that can pass rush, set the edge on the run and get out in pass cov­er­age,” C.J. Mosley said.

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