Ah, social media. Unhappy players used to have only the newspapers and TV to voice their disgruntlement, but these days, anyone with a beef against whatever situation he may be facing can take his case to the people by way of a Twitter campaign. So it is now with Baltimore Ravens fullback Le'Ron McClain(notes), the bruising blocker and runner who has taken to the interwebs to discuss his need for more carries in the crowded Baltimore backfield. Thus, the "McClain 4 RB" campaign.
In 2009, Ray Rice(notes) became the obvious main man at running back — his slashing style proved to be extremely beneficial for the team as Rice became one of the NFL's most efficient backs. And there's no question that Rice will continue to be the primary ball carrier. The question McClain seems to have is, what will happen to the extra carries previously given to veteran Willis McGahee(notes)? The Ravens used to have more of a time-share between the two halfbacks, and McGahee was still the goal-line guy in 2009 (12 rushing touchdowns to Rice's seven), but the 28-year-old's carry totals have fallen every year through his three seasons in Baltimore — from 294 to 170 to 109. When your carries go down for the third straight year and you're available in all 16 games, that's your team telling you something.
McClain, in his third season out of Alabama, led the Ravens in rushing in 2008 with 902 yards. So, he's got a legitimate case for more carries. The Ravens gave him more of a traditional fullback role in 2009, and he played that role with aplomb, but his carries went from 232 to 46, his rushing yards from 902 to 180, and his rushing touchdowns from 10 to two. Now, presented with a restricted free-agent tender of $2.396 million that he has not yet signed, he understands that when it comes to skill-position players and long-term contracts, numbers equate to numbers. In other words, stat lines mean dollars, and true fullbacks don't generally get paid the same way. Current Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli(notes), whom McClain replaced in Baltimore, signed a six-year, $18 million deal with Atlanta in 2007, but he's the exception to the rule in the modern NFL, where tight ends have replaced every-down fullbacks on most teams.
McClain's campaign has caught the attention of team owner Steve Bisciotti (who wanted to know if McClain needed a campaign manager) and head coach Jim Harbaugh, who insisted that training camp, not Twitter, will decide who gets the ball how often. That's where McClain will stage his real campaign, and it would be foolish to bet against him. Could McClain be the Ray Rice handcuff and goal-line stud in the new Ravens offense? Stay tuned...