Cowboys' McClain returns to football after court date
Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain watches a special-teams drill during training camp Saturday.
James D. Smith / SMITJ
Rolando McClain says a phone call from Jerry Jones was the last bit of convincing the linebacker needed to come out of retirement.
The former top 10 pick wasn't so much moved by what the flamboyant Dallas owner had to say. It was more where Jones was when he said it.
"He called me from Turkey and I figured that had to be an expensive phone call," McClain said as he tried to keep a straight face. "So, it was pretty serious with me from that point."
McClain just turned 25, but he's already flamed out in Oakland just three years after the Raiders drafted him eighth overall and quit twice in Baltimore.
The Cowboys, who lost middle linebacker Sean Lee for the season to a left knee injury in the first offseason workout, got McClain in a trade with the Ravens earlier this month.
He flew to California with the team for training camp, but had to turn right back around and go to Alabama for a trial on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The case stemmed from his third arrest since 2011 in his hometown of Decatur, Alabama.
McClain was on the practice field Saturday, a day after he was convicted and sentenced to 18 days in jail. He's free while the case is appealed to state court.
"Yesterday I was sitting in a courtroom not knowing what was going to happen," said McClain, who started 38 of his 41 games with Oakland over three seasons. "Today I'm here with the Dallas Cowboys with an opportunity to make a football team and fight for a position. You can't argue with that."
McClain was out of football last season because he said he needed to focus on being a better father to his young sons. He thought he was ready to return to the Ravens in April, but walked away again six days after he was reinstated.
Jones said the loss of Lee motivated him for a low-risk that cost the Cowboys a sixth-round pick but gave them one in the seventh. Being a businessman, Jones thinks he knows what might motivate McClain.
"You might have a different appreciation if you're out of dollars," Jones said. "I'm not saying he's out of dollars, but he certainly is less some dollars than where he was a few years back."
McClain will have to make the roster to earn most of those dollars. He will most likely be part of the competition to replace Lee. Justin Durant tops that list right now, and second-year player DeVonte Holloman and rookie Anthony Hitchens could be in the mix.
"His slate is completely clean with us," coach Jason Garrett said. "He has got some good endorsements, so we're hopeful that we'll see a player that we like and a guy that can help our football team."
Cowboys fans might remember McClain as the player who lacerated tight end Jason Witten's spleen with a hit in a preseason game two years ago.
Witten still takes issue with how McClain celebrated after the play, but has long since forgiven him for what everyone agreed was a clean hit. McClain said he apologized to Witten a few days ago.
Now McClain gets a chance to show whether he still has any highlight plays in him -- and whether he has the desire to stay out of retirement this time.
"I have a known a lot of people, a lot of successful people, that quit and then got it together and turned it around and came back and really made something of what they quit actually," Jones said. "I have a little empathy."
And the Dallas owner has the long-distance phone call to show for it.