Rolando McClain's NFL retirement hard to explain

Jason Cole
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 28: Quarterback Brady Quinn #9 of the Kansas City Chiefs is sacked by middle linebacker Rolando McClain #55 of the Oakland Raiders during the game at Arrowhead Stadium on October 28, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Linebacker Rolando McClain, 23, has gotten married, been arrested twice, been cut by the lowly Oakland Raiders, then signed by the champion Baltimore Ravens and has now retired.

That's a busy life for most people. McClain has managed to do all of that since the beginning of January.

On Wednesday, one of the more bizarre careers in NFL history ended, at least for now, with McClain telling Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome that he was done.

"Rolando let me know that he plans to retire from the NFL," Newsome said in a release from the Ravens.

Earlier this year, McClain spoke with the Madison (Ala.) Weekly News about his career, indicating that he was training for the upcoming season. At the same time, McClain talked about having changed his life, particularly after marrying college girlfriend Capri Knox in January.

"When you come into some money, some people think you owe them and they want some of your money, but I tried to always stay true to who I am," said McClain, who grew up in Decatur, Ala., and talked about having to separate himself from his old community. "My wife has completely changed me. She's made me mellow, softer.

"I am who I am. I'll have to change my surroundings. I love my friends and my city and I won't turn my back on them. I just need to make better decisions in my life. I won't be making as many visits to Decatur."

From that perspective, McClain appears to be in a better place. Unfortunately, he leaves the NFL under awkward circumstances.

In 2010, McClain was supposed to be the next Ray Lewis. A little more than three years later, he quit before ever taking the field for Lewis' former team. Oakland took the Alabama product at No. 8 overall and handed him a five-year, $40 million contract, $23 million guaranteed.

By the end of three seasons with the Raiders, he was a washout of stunning proportion. If not for JaMarcus Russell, McClain might be the greatest draft failure since the start of the century. His failure is tempered by the fact that Oakland has been a draft wasteland this century. From 2000 to 2010, the Raiders had 13 first-round picks. Of those, only two remain with the team today: running back Darren McFadden (2008) and kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000).

Fact is, McClain defines that lost generation for the Raiders, making more news off the field (he has been arrested by Alabama police three times and suspended by the Raiders once) than on it (244 tackles, 6 ½ sacks, one interception and little team success).

It is telling that McClain's last stop in the NFL was Baltimore. Newsome, a fellow former Alabama player, had to be convinced by Crimson Tide folks to give McClain a chance. Newsome had to be persuaded even though there was practically no risk involved (the Ravens are on the hook for nothing financially).

Even though past tragedies and lingering pain may provide hints at an explanation, it's still hard to fathom anyone calling it a career at 23.

"He has no desire to play, none whatsoever," a source close to McClain said. "When he told me, I was sort of caught off guard and sort of not. You stop for a second and say, 'Wait, how could you quit?' But then you think again and say, 'He didn’t like doing it.' "

[Related: Jason Cole on YSR: McClain's departure not a major setback for Ravens]

Despite his legal troubles, McClain has told friends and associates that he has plenty of money left to live his life the way he wants. He and his wife bought their home in cash.

Furthermore, there aren't any pending issues that anyone close to him or with the Ravens is aware of at the moment.

"If there was something else, we'd probably all know about it by now," the source said.

More abrupt, premature or odd athlete retirements over the years:


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