Oakland Raiders fans know the name Rolando McClain quite well, after all the former Alabama linebacker was supposed to be the team’s future at a key defensive position. A highly touted prospect from a school that is famous for collegiate football dominance in this decade in Alabama, where McClain was a player who did all the right things to become one of the most sought after defensive prospects leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft where he was selected eighth overall by Oakland.
However McClain hasn’t played a game since 2012, when he made six tackles in a November 25 meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals. After being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team during an infamous outburst after the Raiders finally ran out of rope with the malcontent prospect, McClain was released and was out of football.
Dealing with personal issues well documented in ESPN The Magazine, McClain retired in 2013 from the Ravens but made a return to football this summer with the Dallas Cowboys in a situation where McClain has a good chance of making the 53 man roster as well as taking snaps at middle linebacker as the Cowboys defensive depth is giving the former Raiders outcast a golden opportunity to make a comeback.
To make the story even more interesting, McClain will be practicing against his former team in the Raiders in Oxnard on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of shared scrimmage practices between the Raiders/Cowboys. While there aren’t many holdovers from 2012 on the Raiders presently, McClain told Todd Archer of ESPN that he is excited to “put pads” on his former team in the two days of practice between them.
“I still know a few guys on that team, so it will be good,” said McClain. “But it will also be good to put my pads on a few of those guys.”
McClain missed the Cowboys first preseason game with some knee tendinitis, but has impressed at practice and is a favorite of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who told Archer that he has been impressed with the plays that McClain has made in practice (including a tackle on starting running back DeMarco Murray) as he tries to get fit enough to make his return to game action for the first time since late 2012.
“I like the progress that he’s making,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said according to Archer. “He’s trying to play it into shape rather than sitting over there running and getting in shape then go play. But when he makes a play you can see the quality of the play, just like the one he made on Murray. He’s a difference-maker out there, if we can just get him out there.”
Practicing in front of a mix of Raiders and Cowboys fans in Oxnard over the next two days, all eyes will be on McClain for different reasons as Raiders fans will be hard pressed not to stare at the player who once was a symbol of promise and hope at middle linebacker while Cowboys fans will be looking to see promise of talent from a player who has been out of football for nearly two years. At the crossroads of becoming a comeback story or a total bust, McClain will be one of the players with the most eyes on him in Oxnard for good reason. Even if the attention comes from a negative past.