Risk/Reward: Should Jameel McClain Return?

jameel-mcclain

Following this week’s slate of NFL games, Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain will be eligible to return from the Physically Unable to Preform list (PUP). McClain has been sidelined since Week 14 of last season with a spinal cord contusion, which he suffered in a loss to the Washington Redskins.

Given the severity of his injury and considering the risk/reward factor, I believe that McClain would be best suited to just retire, regardless of how difficult it may be for him to actually file the papers.

Football is McClain’s passion, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another player more admired by his coaches and teammates. However, the thing that may be one of McClain’s biggest personal desires could also be his downfall – his desire to compete.

McClain’s desire to win shouldn’t supersede making a potentially risky and life-altering decision. The dangers to personal health presented in football are already intensified the second a player walks onto the field. For McClain, his risk is even greater due to his current condition.

One of the main reasons I’ve been a fan of McClain’s was that I admire the struggles he’s already overcame in life. McClain went from being homeless in Philadelphia during his childhood to an undrafted free agent and Super Bowl Champion.

To say McClain has beaten the odds is putting it lightly.

Aside from being named to a Pro Bowl, what hasn’t McClain accomplished on the field? Is any of it worth the risk of future paralysis?

The Ravens are a top notch organization, and that starts from the ground on up. I’m certain the Ravens, along with their medical staff, are proceeding with extreme caution in advising McClain on his future. However, should there even really be a conversation when a player is coming off such a severe injury? Even if the doctors clear him to play, is it worth the risk?

Danger exists far beyond the football field, where the players run more of a risk driving to practice each day in their vehicles than they do on the football field. But, if you know that you’re going to be near a shark tank with the risk of getting bit, why would you jump in, instead of just watching from afar?

After losing so much veteran leadership following the Super Bowl, the Ravens were able to utilize McClain off the field, but on the field, the team has moved on from him. In McClain’s linebacker position, the team is doing well with Daryl Smith playing to one of the highest levels you could expect a middle linebacker. Fellow undrafted free agent Josh Bynes has followed in McClain’s footsteps and has rightfully earned a starting job. Rookie second-round pick Arthur Brown needs snaps to mature and pan out to the player the Ravens drafted him to be.

Where does that leave McClain? I know in the NFL the unwritten rule is that a player shouldn’t lose his job to injury, but could you make an argument to decrease the snaps of Smith, Bynes or Brown? The defense certainly isn’t the weak link on this team.

Personally, I’m rooting for McClain to make a full recovery and to become as successful as possible in life. He’s outgoing, personable and a good mentor to some of the younger players. However, I don’t want to see him make a decision that he could possibly regret and that could impact him physically and mentally for the rest of his life.

McClain should walk away, be proud of his accomplishments and enjoy the next chapter of his life with some great stories to tell along the way.

In my humble opinion, for McClain, potential risk certainly outweighs potential reward.

 

For more Ravens news and information, follow me on Twitter @RavenManiac.

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About Kris Jones

Kris Jones
Kris - or "Goob" as he's widely known - has turned an obsession into a career. As a media member by day and super fan by night, he reports from the Under Armour Performance Center twice per week and brings Ravens news from a fan's perspective. His popular YouTube series...more

3 Raves on “Risk/Reward: Should Jameel McClain Return?

  1. Sean Crump on said:

    From what I understand, his injury is fully healed…his spinal cord isn’t any more damaged than the next guy on the team thus the risk is as likely as any other football player in the league with a normal spinal cord. I do hear what u r saying but I don’t think the staff would clear him if he was more at risk than before he injured his spine.

  2. cbay52 on said:

    A contusion is really just a fancy name for a bruise, although a spinal injury should never be taken lightly. McClain has access to some really good doctors and physical therapists who are monitoring him closely. That he has taken this long in recovery shows that he is taking the injury seriously. I’m sure he’ll take the doctors advice to heart when he makes the decision to return or retire. So it’s his choice really. It’s not like this type of injury will make him more likely to have a spinal injury in the future like with an ACL tear. While Bynes plays ok at times, he also regularly looks lost in games. If McClain does return I’d like to see him starting beside Daryl Smith over Bynes.

  3. Brandon Barrett on said:

    Let us not forget that Johns Hopkins is in Baltimore, as is Shock Trauma (both of which are among the top of list of medical centers, Shock Trauma is THE model that other hospitals follow for Trauma Treatment and Johns Hopkins is one of the top rated hospitals for neurology). If you have a brain or spinal injury, Baltimore is the right place to be. Most doctor’s will advise against a return to any activity that lead to a traumatic injury (sports related or anything else, like dangerous jobs or hobbies) and I see this advice in two ways, the cynical way and the sensible way: 1) Cynical view: Though shall cover thy ass and 2) Sensible view: why even risk the chance that a further, life altering injury could occur. I see the value of calling it quits while you are ahead, but if you recover from an injury to the point where a doctor (and not a team or league doctor, who may have other motives for clearing a player) gives McClain a clean bill of health. I say, let the man decide his own fate. It may be that with a core of LBs that are performing well, and getting better weekly, that he comes back in a limited role, one that allows Baltimore more fresh legs on the field with an extra player to rotate through, which will limit his number of snaps and allow him to judge whether this is something he wants to do going forward.

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