- Associated Press - Thursday, July 29, 2010

NAPA, CALIF. (AP) - The Oakland Raiders signed first-round pick Rolando McClain to a contract late Wednesday night, hours before the start of their first training camp practice.

McClain, the eighth overall pick in April’s draft, is just the third first-round pick to sign a contract and the highest overall pick to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys signed No. 24 pick Dez Bryant last week and the New England Patriots signed No. 27 pick Devin McCourty on Wednesday morning.

The Raiders got the deal done with their starting middle linebacker before taking the field for their first training camp practice on Thursday morning. It was not immediately known if McClain would make it to the team’s facility in the wine country in time for the first session.

With McClain’s signing, Oakland has gotten all nine of its draft picks under contract. The Raiders traditionally have done a good job getting their top picks into camp on time with the exception of JaMarcus Russell’s lengthy holdout in 2007 that lasted until the start of the regular season.

Darrius Heyward-Bey missed the morning session on the first day a year ago before signing a deal that guaranteed him at least $23.5 million.

Terms on McClain’s deal were not immediately available.

McClain was a key offseason addition the Raiders made in an attempt to upgrade their run defense, which ranked 29th last season. Oakland showed its confidence in McClain by trading incumbent starting middle linebacker Kirk Morrison to Jacksonville on the second day of the draft and quickly proclaiming McClain the starter.

McClain was part of Nick Saban’s first recruiting class at Alabama, spending three years learning under one of the game’s most respected defensive coaches. McClain was one of the key cogs in Saban’s rapid turnaround at Alabama, helping the Crimson Tide win the national championship last season.

Alabama ranked 46th in the nation in run defense before McClain arrived. The Tide improved to 28th in his freshman year and second in his final two seasons. He won the Butkus Award as the top college linebacker, recording 105 tackles, including 14.5 for losses.

Now the Raiders hope he can have the same type of impact on another storied team that has had recent struggles. Since going to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season, the Raiders have lost at least 11 games the past seven years. They are 29-83 in that span, the second-worst record in the NFL.

Stopping the run has been a common theme to Oakland’s struggles the past seven seasons. The Raiders have allowed an NFL-worst 143.7 yards rushing per game since then and 146 touchdowns on the ground _ 15 more than the second-worst team, St. Louis.

The Raiders also took defensive lineman Lamarr Houston in the second round and added two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle John Henderson and outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley in the offseason to bolster the run defense.

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