Philadelphia, PA – In three years, Rolando McClain has gone from can't miss to never was.
The immature ex-Alabama star "retired" from the NFL earlier this week, just over a month after signing a one-year contract with the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
"Rolando let me know that he plans to retire from the NFL," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said when confirming the news.
McClain, of course, entered the NFL in April 2010 as the eighth overall pick by the Oakland Raiders after a brilliant career in Tuscaloosa, one in which he was recognized as a unanimous All-American and the best college linebacker in the country after helping the Crimson Tide win the 2010 BCS National Championship.
A five-year, $40 million deal greeted McClain in Oakland, but his stay in the Bay Area ended prematurely, just months after the enigmatic Cotton State native was suspended for two games late in 2012 after clashing with Raiders head coach Dennis Allen. He was then declared inactive for what turned out to be his final three contests as a member of the Silver and Black.
According to sources within the Raiders, McClain was kicked out of practice on Nov. 29 of last season due to an "incident" with Allen. In what has become somewhat of a hallmark in his life, McClain then exacerbated the situation with some bad decision-making, taking his gripes to social media and writing things like he was "no longer an Oakland Raider!!" and that he was "mentally done" and wishing "to be anywhere besides here."
He got his wish in April when the Raiders tapped out.
Everyone knew there would be a second chance, however, because the talent remained. McClain recorded 62 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble in the 11 games he did play in 2012, a year after he set career bests with five sacks and 99 stops.
McClain's mulligan came in the Charm City with the Ravens, a team is desperate need of linebacking help after Ray Lewis' retirement and Dannell Ellerbe's defection to Miami in free agency.
He signed a one-year contract with the Ravens on April 12, but any hope that a change of scenery would provide at least some perspective quickly evaporated when McClaim was arrested on disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., 10 days later.
That dustup with the law was the third time McClain was arrested in Decatur since 2011. He was first charged in a shooting before police again arrested him in January on charges of having his car windows tinted too dark and then lying about his identity.
To date, McClain has skated on most of his mistakes. He was sentenced to jail on an assault charge after the shooting, but prosecutors eventually dismissed the case. Meanwhile, a judge dismissed the identity issue, although he was forced to pay a small fine for the window tint violation.
Those details are just white noise, though. McClain has been speeding down a dark path for quite some time and has officially hit a fork in the road. Fix the issues that have plagued him, become a productive citizen and return to football or continue to throw what was a career filled with promise down the drain.
For what it's worth, McClain is at least paying lip service to the former.
"Clearly, my decision to retire has raised some questions," McClain said in a statement. "Quite simply, I love football, but I have decided at this time it is in my best interest to focus on getting my personal life together."
Any 12-stepper knows the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. That said, acknowledging an issue is a long way from addressing it in a positive fashion.
"I'm not sure what the future holds for me," McClain admitted.
Football isn't boxing, so when someone calls it quits, you usually take them at their word. This situation is far different, however. McClain is only 23 and still has the athleticism and physical skills to make a difference on just about any NFL defense.
By placing McClain on the Reserve/Retired list, the Ravens will hold onto his rights and Newsome will be holding his breath, hoping the talented linebacker can resolve his pending legal issues and keep his nose clean moving forward.
"This was entirely my decision and the Ravens have been very supportive during this process. I am very grateful for the opportunity they gave me and wish them the best of luck in the future. God willing, maybe I'll play for them one day," McClain said.
With all due respect to God, the only one deciding whether McClain will resume his career in Baltimore is Rolando McClain.
Here's hoping he realizes that sooner rather than later.