"I know a lot of people get disappointed in Rolando McClain and a lot of the things he's struggled with," Saban said. "But he's with us now."
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McClain, 23, was placed on the Ravens' reserve-retired list after being signed to a one-year, $700,000 nonguaranteed contract and then getting arrested April 21 in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The Ravens retain McClain's contractual rights and can activate him at any time, but have signed veteran Daryl Smith to play inside linebacker.
An All-American at Alabama who won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker and then drafted eighth overall in the first round by the Oakland Raiders, McClain struggled on and off the field.
"That guy was a phenomenal leader," Saban said. "He affected everybody in the organization at a time when we needed leadership because we had a lot of bad things happen when I first got there."
McClain, who has a July 9 court date, issued a statement when he retired
"Clearly, my decision to retire has raised some questions," McClain said in a statement from his agent, Pat Dye Jr. "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. Beyond that, I'm not sure what the future holds for me, including football.
"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."