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McClain Earning Respect, Happy To Be Playing Again


IRVING, Texas – If it weren't for his sheer size, it'd be easy to miss Rolando McClain.

He's quiet in the locker room, keeping his head down and avoiding media attention when he can. It's hard to blame the star linebacker, who could end up one of the best low-risk acquisitions the Cowboys have ever made, particularly when he still has to answer questions about desire after a game in which he led the team in tackles, picks and sacks.

"I'm here to play football," McClain said. "Honestly, that's all I care about it. As y'all know, I don't like doing the media, I don't try to get in the middle of it. I just like to play the game."

McClain knows the types of questions he'll get in the locker room and in post-game conferences after deciding to retire last year, despite possessing the talent to be one of the better linebackers in the game: *What made you want to play again? Are you into it now? What makes you think you won't quit again? Why did you quit in the first place? *

That last question might be the easiest for him to answer after multiple arrests. He doesn't shush the question off though, answering with poise and honesty. He doesn't talk often, but he answers poignantly and sincerely when he does.

"I had to get a better foundation," McClain said. "That started with my relationship with God. I was just running around like I had all the answers with no consequences, so to say. But you've got to answer to those things, if not in this life, then the next life, for sure.

"I wanted to make sure with what I believe, I'm setting a good example for my boys; the guys that come back and play behind me at Alabama; the younger guys out there now, younger kids out there now that look up to me. I just want to be a better role model, first and foremost be a better person, and with that I can be a better father, a better man, a better husband, whatever that may be."

Talent was never a question for McClain, and he knows that. He doesn't seek the attention of others, but he's also not bashful about how good a player he is and can be.

He knows it wasn't exactly a huge leap head coach Jason Garrett took to get him in Dallas, trading Baltimore a sixth-round pick for a seventh-rounder if he plays 50 percent of the snaps this year, but he's glad the move happened.

"I was in the league three years, started the whole time I was there (in Oakland) besides being suspended," McClain said. "I played some good football at times. Tape don't lie. Like I said, I'm thrilled that he did give me a call. There weren't many teams I would have left the couch for. This was one of them, and I'm delighted that he did."

One thing's for sure after racking up a team-leading 15 combined tackles and tying for the team lead in interceptions and sacks after two games: He doesn't have to convince his teammates he wants to be playing football in Dallas.

Barry Church realized that during a practice.

"He came up to me and was like, 'I love y'all. Y'all make this game fun for me again.'" Church said. "Once he said that, I kind of knew he was back to his old ways like how he was at Alabama, just love for the game, love for winning." [embedded_ad]

Church said the defense needed a type of player like McClain, whose physicality and intensity has helped heighten those traits for the entire defense. McClain doesn't say much, but with the way he's playing, he doesn't have to for his fellow defenders to be glad to have him around.

"He's not much of a talker, now," said Jeremy Mincey. "I just tell the opposing team, 'Don't piss him off.' He's tough."

The Cowboys need McClain more than he needs them, but it's a mutually beneficial relationship McClain's glad he got into. As McClain said, football's "just fun" now, and he has "no desire to go back" where he was before joining the team.

"I was on a bad path," McClain said. "I didn't deserve to play football. I wasn't all the way there any game. You ain't going to be the best if you ain't focused on your job, so I needed to take time to do what was important and get myself right. I got that right, and now I'm with a great organization, got some great teammates and I'm happy to be playing football again."

McClain credits the guidance of Alabama coach Nick Saban for staying on track in college. Admittedly, he said when he got out into the real world, there were more opportunities to get in trouble.

But he got his life straightened out, got the call from owner/general manager Jerry Jones to come to the Cowboys and has provided nothing but production early on.

"I had the support of the owner, got in, just worked my butt off, earned the respect from teammates and you just go play," McClain said. "Now we've got a good relationship, trust each other. Now we just try to go out and have fun."

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