All it took was a phone call from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for Rolando McClain to end his retirement.
“He called me from Turkey, and I figured that had to be an expensive phone call, so ... it was pretty serious with me from that point,” McClain said Saturday.
McClain, 25, is seeking a fresh start. The former first-round pick of the Raiders, who has been arrested three times and twice retired from the NFL, is trying to become the player he once was at Alabama.
“This is a great opportunity,” McClain said. “You only get [so] many chances in the NFL. So the best thing I can do is take advantage of it, work my butt off and try to make this team and be the best I can be.”
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McClain returned to training camp after being convicted in Decatur, Ala., on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest Friday. He appealed after receiving a sentence of 18 days in jail.
“Very [surprised],” McClain said. “But we appealed it, so it’s still open, so that’s all I’ll say about that.”
The Raiders made McClain the eighth overall pick in 2010. In three seasons he made 38 starts, had 6 1/2 sacks and 175 tackles. The Raiders cut him in April 2013. He signed with the Ravens and retired a month later.
The Cowboys traded for him earlier this month, after losing Sean Lee for the season, in what is a low-risk move with the potential for a high-reward.
“I just think he has some stars aligned for him,” Jones said. “He’s got some adversity. We’ve all had it. I like what has really been a source of this, the family, really sensitive about family, not that others aren’t out here, but I just like his story. I think we’ve got a chance. I’ll tell you this right now, it doesn’t hurt that we need another linebacker.”
The team’s first padded practice with full team drills got chippy at times Saturday. Cornerback Morris Claiborne and wide receiver Terrance Williams jawed back and forth before cooler heads prevailed.
Both tried to downplay it afterward.
“It’s one of those things,” Williams said. “I mean, I’m all for playing football, but I just feel like sometimes if it goes a tad bit overboard to where I feel like I’m about to get hurt, then I’ve got to just tell him, ‘Lighten up a tad bit, but still do your job. But just don’t try to hurt me.’ That’s all.”
After one incompletion from Tony Romo to Williams, Claiborne yelled, “Bring Dez over here.”
“It just got a little bit competitive,” said Claiborne, who dealt with cramps near the end of practice. “He didn’t like the way I was touching him. I don’t know what else I was supposed to have done, just let him run his route. But it gets like that sometimes out here. We’re still teammates. We’re still buddies. It’s a physical game. In one-on-one’s, it definitely gets physical out there. It was good competition.”
Tony Romo, who took Friday afternoon off, was back at work Saturday afternoon.
The quarterback spent the first nine plays of the team’s 11-on-11 work handing off. He threw only four passes, but one was a nice completion to Bryant over the top of Claiborne. Romo was 7 of 8 passing in 7-on-7 work.
“If I’ve ever seen a player that can come in and play with limited reps in practice, Romo is that player,” Jones said. “And, boy, he knows what he wants to do here. But that’s not the point. We really want him to have his reps.
“This is when he wants to get them is in these competitive periods, in these afternoon practices. I’m sure he’ll work. I know he’s looking ahead and make sure he gets in all of these that he possibly can and be smart about how he pushes rehab.”