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Garrett: Easy To See Why LB McClain Was Top 10 Pick
The idea and hope was maybe a couple of these guys could flourish with a new scenery. The Cowboys are seeing it with Brandon Weeden, who is likely going to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback.
And after just a week of practices here in Oxnard, they’re starting to see it with Rolando McClain, who actually got some first-team reps in Saturday’s morning walk-through and also worked with the first-team goal-line unit during live drills.
While McClain hasn’t played in a regular-season game since late in the 2012 season, and his first practices of the offseason occurred out here in California, he’s already showing some of that potential that made him the eighth overall pick of the Raiders in 2010.
“It’s easy to see why he was a Top 10 pick in the draft coming out of school,” head coach Jason Garrett said of McClain, a standout at Alabama. “I have liked what he’s done so far. He’s smart. He picks things up very quickly in meeting and is able to translate it on the field. Now, it’s really early and he’s probably practice four or five days with us and he has a long way to go, but he’s really kind of stepped into this situation and it seems like he’s taking advantage of this opportunity.”
While McClain seems to be learning quickly, the linebacker admitted the process has been difficult, but he’s getting plenty of help from linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, along with veterans Justin Durant and even the injured Sean Lee, whose torn ACL injury has created the void at middle linebacker.
“The guys have been doing a great job setting examples how to work as far as what’s expected so I’m just trying to fall into that; do the best I can,” McClain said Saturday. “It’s been a while since I played a game, but I’m just trying to do the best I can so ar. Just trying to make plays and see what happens from there. So far it’s been good, just learning everything on the fly, trying to figure out what I can and just play fast to the best I can. It’s been good.”
Knowing what to do and where to be is tough enough, but getting his body to cooperate hasn’t been easy as well for McClain.
“The hardest thing right now is reminding myself that I have been out of football for a while. My body may not respond as quickly,” McClain said. “No matter how much training you do, running or lifting, it’s nothing like being in football shape. I got a steep hill ahead of me and I’m just climbing. Like Coach Garrett says, just keep fighting, fight with the rest of these guys. We still got a lot more training camp left, so I’m focused on that.”
So focused that when asked about his excitement level for Sunday’s Blue-White Scrimmage, McClain admitted he was unaware of such an event.
“I didn’t know we were scrimmaging, but now that I do, I guess I am (excited),” McClain. “That’s the way I have to approach it or I’ll get overwhelmed. Today, we have goal-line (drill) so that’s what I focus on.”