McClain back to traditional fullback role

OWINGS MILLS -- Le'Ron McClain is back to operating as a traditional fullback one season removed from leading the Baltimore Ravens in rushing yards. Now, his primary responsibility is creating pathways for Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to run through.

After gaining a career-high 902 rushing yards and scoring 10 touchdowns last season, McClain has accepted his complementary role even though he would be happier if he was carrying the football full-time.

"With the success I had last year at halfback, I'm leaning more towards tailback," McClain said Saturday at minicamp. "But you know me, I'll do whatever helps the team. I know they've got a plan for us and it involves the whole 11. ... I just want to continue to get better and show them that's the position [tailback] I want to play."

With four-time Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal signing with the Oakland Raiders after starting five games for Baltimore last season, McClain is the only experienced fullback on the roster and is well-suited to the position at a burly 260 pounds.

"I'm going to play it by ear," McClain said. "When I touch it, I'm going to show them I can still do it whether I'm at fullback or not. I'm going to do my best to get Ray and Willis more yards.

"I know I'm the starting fullback and I'm the second halfba ck, too,20behind Ray with Willis not out there right now. When I get my chance again, I'm going to take advantage of it. They know what I can do."

The Ravens' operative plan is for McClain to dent linebackers' helmets this season.

"Le'Ron has improved tremendously," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "He's not the same player he was a year ago. I see a lot of Lorenzo Neal just in Le'Ron. In my mind, [Neal's] still here."

I'M BACK: Veteran nose guard Kelly Gregg said that any obituaries written about his football career were premature.

After undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in October and missing an entire season, Gregg is back on the field at minicamp with no restrictions and chasing down running backs with a big smile on his face.

"It feels great to be out there sweating with the guys," Gregg said. "They were all dreading coming back and I couldn't wait to be out there. I felt like those young rookies out there. I'm back! The only way I'm going out is on my back, so we'll see how it goes."

Gregg said he hasn't felt any twinges in his knee while making cuts and seemed to be his usual aggressive self in drills.

He said he has no regrets about having the surgery, which NBA players Greg Oden and Amare Stoudamire have successfully undergone.

"It's the best thing I did," Gregg said. "I had to sit out a good year, but hopefully it will add a year or two to my career. It killed me watching last year, but I had to get 'er done.

"You guys thought I was dead, but I'm back. It was like I was AIG on Wall Street last year, getting paid for doing nothing. Now, I'm back. I'm ready to have some fun, Ravens style."

TRAINING ROOM: Cornerback Fabian Washington had offseason neck surgery as well as a procedure on his shoulder.

Doctors fused vertebrae in Washington's neck.

"I feel great," Washington said. "It relieved the pressure. I got my shoulder fixed, too. I'm like the Bionic Man. I had a rough year last year, but now tackling won't hurt as much."

For the second day in a row, veteran offensive tackle Willie Anderson wasn't at practice due to knee problems.

Anderson's agent, Terry Bolar, said that the former Pro Bowl blocker has normal "wear and tear," on his knees, adding that he doesn't believe it's serious.

Anderson also dealt with a nagging foot injury last season.

The Ravens are taking a cautious approach with Anderson, allowing him to rest up before they try to get him back on the field.

"What Willie Anderson has done for our offense last year, his leadership, the way he played, it was critical to our success," Cameron said. "We'll just let that play out. He knows his body. We'll let him rattle those things through his mind. He's a guy that's helped us tremendously."

Rookie linebacker Jason Phillips said he's recuperating well from a torn lateral meniscus in his knee suffered at the N FL scouting combine in February, projecting that he'll be able to participate fully at a rookie minicamp next month.

"It's coming along good," said Phillips, a fifth-round pick from Texas Christian. "I've still got about another month until I can get back to running. I've got to take it for what it is." MAKING AN IMPRESSION: Kelley Washington has been the most impressive of the three veteran wide receiver free agents trying out this weekend, catching a touchdown pass Saturday.

Washington has been more active than Jerry Porter and Tab Perry two days into the audition for a roster spot.

"Your mind is going 100 miles per hour and you're trying to get the plays down," Washington said. "You want to catch the ball, stay on your feet and learn the new way of doing things. The biggest thing is to adjust to the system and make plays.

"It's all part of the business of joining a new team. The biggest thing we can control is to stay on our feet and run good routes and give the coaches the impression that you know what you're doing."

ON THE MOVE: Bryan Mattison has moved to offensive guard after playing defensive end on the Ravens' practice squad last year.

Listed at 6-3, 272 pounds, Mattison said he has actually bulked up to 295 pounds.

The son of Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Mattison hasn't played offensive line since his freshman year of high school.

"They want me to gain a couple more pounds," Mattison said. "They told me it would be a good opportunity for me because of some injuries on the offensive line. It's fun. I get to learn a lot from people like [six-time Pro Bowl center] Matt Birk."

QUICK HITS: Wide receiver Mark Clayton indicated that the undisclosed injury that has him in a red jersey this weekend isn't serious. ... Rookie defensive end-linebacker Paul Kruger intercepted a deflected Joe Flacco pass and lateraled it to Derrick Martin. ... Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, a 6-8 Baltimore native, attended practice and went home with some Ravens gear. ... Wide receivers Marcus Smith and Yamon Figurs have had some solid moments at practice. ... Cornerback Anwar Phillips intercepted a Flacco pass in the end zone.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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