Troubled McClain a cheap risk for Cowboys

07/26/2014 9:43 PM

07/27/2014 12:21 AM

At the Church of the Permeable Defense, pastor Jerry Jones presiding, they are always on the lookout for lost souls.

Even, it seems, if the wayward soul has three arrests, two NFL retirements and, as of Friday, an 18-day jail sentence on his heavenly ledger.

Ranked last in the league last season in defense, the Dallas Cowboys can’t be finicky. Which is how Owner Jones came to pick up the telephone one recent day and call linebacker Rolando McClain all the way from Turkey.

That’s right — Turkey. There’s a Jerry joke in there somewhere, but it escapes me right now.

“He called me from Turkey, and I figured that had to be an expensive phone call,” McClain said Saturday. “It was pretty serious with me from that point.”

In 2010, the Oakland Raiders made McClain the eighth player selected in the NFL Draft. Three years later, he had worn out his welcome and was being called a bust. He signed a one-year deal with Baltimore, but retired in May 2013 without playing a game.

On Friday, a municipal court judge in Decatur, Ala., found McClain, a hometown hero for Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, guilty on misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. McClain immediately appealed the $1,572 fine and 18-day jail sentence.

By Saturday morning’s walk-through, McClain was back in Cowboys training camp, telling the media his story and preparing for his first practice.

“My life wasn’t going in the right path,” McClain said of his initial retirement. “Being a young father of two, I had to sit down and realize that I have things I need to do to be a better man for those two little boys.”

That realization led to the two retirements. It was Saban, though, who convinced Jones and coach Jason Garrett to take a chance on McClain.

The prime motivation for signing McClain was a simple one, though, Jones said.

“Sean Lee,” Jerry said. “Sean Lee. The lack or loss of him. Period.

“I have known a lot of people, though, a lot of successful people, that quit and then got it together and turned it around. So I have a little empathy. He’s a great opportunity for our team.”

Money is also likely playing a factor in McClain’s attempted NFL comeback.

“I’m not saying he’s out of dollars,” Owner Jones said, “but he certainly is less some dollars than where he was a few years back. That’ll motivate you.”

For the Cowboys, the price indeed is right. McClain is signed to an NFL veteran minimum contract of $645,000. If he doesn’t make the team, the Cowboys don’t have to pay and the Ravens will have to return Dallas’ 2015 sixth-round draft choice.

There is a chance, perhaps, that McClain will play like something remotely resembling a previous high-round draft choice. On the other hand, alas, he may end up not wanting or being able to play at all.

Remember, it was Jones who called McClain first, not the other way around.

“Life is about struggling,” McClain said Saturday. “Life is about getting knocked down. You’ve just got to get back up.

“I didn’t ever feel that my attitude was wrong. I just had a lot of outside distractions. And if you can’t be 100 percent at your job, you’re not going to be your best at it. Plain and simple.”

Football, McClain said he realizes, is his job and his family’s livelihood. He doesn’t want to disappoint them or, it seems, Saban.

“I can’t let him down,” McClain said. “I know he stuck his neck out there for me.”

He was lost, linebacker Rolando McClain said of himself. But now, he says, he’s found.

In either case, Owner Jones’ defense is in no position to be finicky.

About Gil LeBreton

Gil LeBreton


Gil LeBreton has been entertaining and informing Star-Telegram readers for more than 34 years. He worked for newspapers in his hometown of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Kansas City and Baltimore before finding his true home in Texas. Over the years he's covered 25 Super Bowls, 16 Olympic Games (9 summer, 7 winter), soccer's World Cup, the Masters, the Tour de France, saw Muhammad Ali box, Paul Newman drive a race car and Prince Albert try to steer a bobsled.

A Vietnam veteran, Gil and his wife Gail have two children -- J.P., a computer game designer in San Francisco, and Elise, an actress living in New York. Gil also once briefly held the WBC Junior Welterweight title belt -- he had to, because the guy he was interviewing, champ Bruce Curry, had to suddenly step into the men's room.

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