Rolando McClain has been mainly a spectator at practice for the past two and a half weeks but during that time has responded with two of his best games.
McClain had seven stops and a tackle for loss Sunday against Denver, missed the Jacksonville game with a soft tissue foot injury and seven stops against San Diego, a game that included a highlight-reel hit on Chargers running back Darren Sproles.
“I watch a lot of film by myself and with coach (Mike) Haluchak, so I think watching film is just as important as practicing,’’ McClain said Monday. “So I was prepared.’’
It was just the second time this season McClain agreed to talk on the record. He’s not a fan of interviews, although it’s difficult to say why.
His no B.S. style, along with enormous self-confidence, reminds one of a slightly more understated Charles Woodson in the question and answer game.
McClain joked that he wasn’t going to complain about not practicing, but noted, “It’s hard sometimes because I know my teammates want me out there. You can tell I make a difference in practice, just being prepared and alerting everybody.
“Last week’s game was the first game I’ve ever missed in my life. Not just football or college. First game ever due to injury. So it was hard and no matter what it takes, I’ve got to get out there.’’
With 71 tackles, McClain is tied for sixth among all NFL rookies and is second among linebackers, trailing Indianapolis outside linebacker Pat Angerer (78).
“My goal is 100 tackles each year so I’m not there yet. I’ve still got a long way to go but I’ve still got two games and I can make up some room,’’ McClain said.
“But my goal, my main goal was to try to improve this defense in any way possible. I think everybody around me is playing better, from the D-line to my linebackers.
“If we can just continue to do that, continue to grow, continue to build on it, that would be all right, and I think that’s the impact they really need from me.”
McClain, who played the spy against Florida’s Tim Tebow in the SEC championship game won by Alabama a year ago, said the plan Sunday was to confuse him with zones so he did little in the way of spying.
“We talked before the game, talked at halftime,’’ McClain said. “Still a great player. I think he’ll be good in this league. I think he had pretty good game, besides losing.”
Fined twice this year for a body slam of the Rams’ Danny Amendola ($5,000) and for a blow to the helmet of Seattle’s Justin Forsett ($7,500), McClain’s hit on Sproles was ruled to be clean Sproles had taken three steps and was not a defenseless receiver.
“It felt good, but then it felt bad because I was worried he was going to be hurt. He’s a good guy,’’ McClain said.
McClain will be a little lighter in the wallet tonight when the rookies host the rest of the team at a high-end steakhouse.
By virtue of his first-round status and reported $23 million guarantee in his contract, McClain will get body-slammed like Amendola when it comes time to pay the check.
“I’m going to get hit with a pretty big bill tonight,’’ McClain said. “They usually do it as positions but this time they’re doing it as a team. I’ll take the bulk of the bill. I already know it. They already told me I’m paying for it.’’
More news, notes, quotes and observations from Monday’s open locker room session:
— Right tackle Langston Walker reported to work with a slight headache after leaving in the second quarter with a concussion following a Denver interception by safety Renaldo Hill.
“I’ve taken the little concussion test. They said I’m better than they thought I would be,’’ Walker said. “Then, you just go from there. You see how you feel the next day and sort of ease back into it.”
Mario Henderson replaced Walker, the first time he’s played in an NFL game at right tackle after 41 games at left tackle, 27 as a starter.
“I just look at it as an opportunity, to go in there and not skip a beat, just continue the pace that was set before the game,’’ Henderson said. “I don’t want to go out there and be the guy who wasn’t paying attention and wasn’t studying.
“I played OK, but I can play a lot better and I will do better.’’
— Linebacker Quentin Groves was already looking forward to Sunday and facing Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning.
“I call him the human robot. He is a human robot,’’ Groves said. “You try anything and everything to get this guy out of his game, and it doesn’t work. So you just have to try and do what you do best.
“The best way to beat Peyton Manning is to keep him on the sideline. And that’s by running the ball on offense and controlling the clock.’’
Toward that end, the Raiders have moved in to second in the NFL in rushing at 157.5 yards per game and the Colts are ranked 28th against the run, giving up 135.8.
— Jacoby Ford went Hue Jackson 51 yards better on the first snap from scrimmage.
“Hue challenged me a little bit, saying I had to get at least 20 yards on it,’’ Ford said. “So I took it to the house. I think I won that bet.’’
Ford said he came into the season not knowing what his role would be and was prepared for anything.
Jared Veldheer, who became the starting left tackle after playing at Division II Hillsdale, had a goal in mind from the start.
“It was obviously a goal of mine, to be a starting tackle, and to achieve that goal I knew I needed to work hard and put in the time and really pick apart my game and try to work on it, and keep improving it, constantly keep improving it to not only stay in that spot but to make the team better,’’ Veldheer said.
How did he succeed with the leap in competition?
“Most of it’s just a mindset,’’ Veldheer said. “It’s you versus another person. No one is super man with a cape out there. Everyone is wearing a helmet and shoulder pads and you’ve got to go out there and execute and do your job better than the guy across from you.’’
— Something’s up with Sebastian Janikowski’s kickoffs that goes beyond the change in the weather.
Over his last six games, Janikowski has just four touchbacks in 31 kickoffs, a 12.9 percent rate. In the first eight games, Janikowski had 24 touchbacks in 49 kickoffs, a 49.0 percent rate.
It’s not affecting his field goal accuracy. Janikowski is 10-or-11 on field goal attempts in the last six games.