OXNARD, Calif. -- A Dallas Cowboys defense starved for playmakers desperately needs linebacker Rolando McClain to come close to fulfilling the potential he had as the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft.
That would require McClain, a 25-year-old who has retired from the game twice, to have some semblance of passion for the sport.
The Cowboys basically talked McClain off the couch when they made a no-risk trade to acquire his rights from the Baltimore Ravens with the hope that he’d earn the right to replace the injured Sean Lee as the starting middle linebacker. There have been flashes of his talent during training camp, but he’s missed several practices and the preseason opener due to minor leg ailments.
McClain’s history and the missed practices raise a simple question: Does he love football again?
“I love life,” McClain said.
That wasn’t the question. Do you love football?
“I love life,” McClain said. “Football is a part of my life, so I love life.”
McClain expresses no regrets about his retirements. He says he did what’s best for his family, including his two young sons. He knows his commitment to football is questioned, but he says he doesn’t care.
“I got myself better,” McClain said. “I’m back in football and I’m glad to be a Cowboy.”
It’d seem that preseason action would be as important to McClain as anyone on the Cowboys' roster, considering he hasn’t played a game since his dismissal from the Oakland Raiders in November 2012. Yet he’s nonchalant when asked whether he’ll make his Cowboys debut Saturday against the Ravens, saying it’s up to Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett to figure out what he needs to do to get ready for the regular season.
McClain isn’t sure if he’s ready for game action.
“I’m trying to get my body back right,” McClain said. “I’m not all the way there yet. I’ll be honest I’m not there yet. Coach is doing a great job getting me acclimated to this point. We’ll be ready when we’re ready.”