IRVING, Texas – A brief knee scare didn't stop Rolando McClain from practicing and working in the middle with the starting group Monday.
McClain had a sleeve on his right knee and sat out some drills early in practice Monday, but both McClain and head coach Jason Garrett confirmed the middle linebacker practiced fully the rest of the day.
"Coming in, it was a matter of learning what we were asking him to do," Garrett said. "He embraced that, and I think he's going to be a part of that mix at linebacker. He's demonstrated both in practice and in preseason games that he's worthy of some kind of an opportunity."
Garrett wouldn't commit to saying McClain won the starting job in the middle, but he did say he anticipates McClain playing some snaps this weekend as part of the linebacker rotation. It certainly appears McClain will get the first crack at the starting job in the middle after working once again with the first-team group for the majority of the day on Monday.
Anthony Hitchens got some brief work with the starters early on when McClain appeared to tweak his knee at the beginning of practice, but any worries about a knee problem were quelled by McClain afterward. He dismissed any notion that he hurt his knee, stating that the sleeve was just for precaution and he practiced fully and felt great.
As for whether he'll start on Sunday?
"I don't know, we'll see," McClain said. "We'll see what they have planned for me and the rest of the guys."
McClain's focus was more on Wednesday, when the team installs most of its work in preparation for the 49ers. He said he has no expectations other than trying to play hard, making the plays available and being a great teammate, but it sounds like he'll get to do that with the starters. [embedded_ad]
He'll likely be the man in the middle defensively, surrounded by Bruce Carter on the strong side and Justin Durant on the weak side. Carter said as much to reporters Monday after practicing the majority of the day with that grouping, though Garrett hasn't confirmed the lineup yet and Hitchens has also gotten work in the middle this preseason.
"Again, it's going to be the same answer," Garrett said. "We're going to have different roles for them. We'll want them all to be involved and integrated into our defense. For those guys who will have roles in base, nickel and then on special teams, I think there's enough work out for each of those guys. If they're going to be active for the game, there needs to be enough work."
Garrett said the coaches need to get Carter in a role he's comfortable with, and all the coaches can ask from him is that he plays at a consistently high level. Much of Carter's work this offseason and preseason has been on the weak side, but his skills may translate better as a strong side linebacker, where he's been getting more work recently.
"I think he does some things pretty naturally over there," Garrett said. "We'll give him a chance to do that. Again, we're going to play those guys in a lot of different spots to try to take advantage of what they do best and take advantage of each of them. But he certainly has some traits that can be effective over there."