Willis McGahee keeps his promise to attend voluntary practices
By Jamison Hensley
Originally published May 22, 2007
After Willis McGahee's first practices with the Ravens last week, team officials couldn't say they gained any insight into whether their new running back is primed for a career year or if he is going to add any punch to the passing attack.
But the Ravens did learn something about McGahee - he is a man of his word.
Often criticized for missing voluntary workouts with the Buffalo Bills, McGahee lived up to his promise that he would attend the Ravens' minicamps and expects it to pay dividends.
"I'm motivated, I've got to step my game up," said McGahee, who will rejoin his teammates for the second Ravens minicamp today. "My teammates are expecting a lot of me. I'm going to go out there and dish it out. Hopefully, we can all work together and make that run we want."
The Ravens traded three draft picks (third- and seventh-round picks this year and a third-round pick next year) to the Bills to acquire McGahee, who had been considered a distraction in Buffalo.
Last year, McGahee was the only veteran to skip the Bills' first five voluntary minicamps, even though Buffalo was installing a different system under a new offensive coordinator.
Former Bills running back Thurman Thomas criticized McGahee last year, saying McGahee wasn't showing much leadership by being a no-show.
McGahee said his trade to the Ravens has given him a fresh start and a new environment.
"The vibe in the air is totally different," McGahee said. "These guys know what they want, and they know what they need to do. The coaches treat you like men. Everybody is making sure everybody is on top of their game.
"We're not messing around. When one player messes up, you might laugh here or there. Jokes aside, we help each other out."
While the dedication is there, the comfort level is not. McGahee acknowledged that he made a couple of mistakes and estimated that the learning process could last through training camp.
"I was a little nervous out there; I feel like a rookie all over again," he said. "Everybody messes up. I expect myself to mess up. It's like we're breaking the seal right now."
The biggest transition for McGahee is learning the new terminology.
"I'm moving in pretty good," he said "Coach [Brian Billick] says we have to learn fast and he's talking fast. It's hard on anybody coming in and trying to learn a whole new playbook. It's going to take a little time, but I'm not worried about it."
It could be a different playbook for everybody.
With McGahee, the Ravens expect to open up the offense more than they did in the past with a pure power back like Jamal Lewis. Because McGahee is more of a slasher, they can use more one-back formations and make him more of an integral part to the offense.
"I think he's going to be a great addition to the team," Ravens quarterback Steve McNair said. "Looking at him and how he's getting a feel for this offense, he's not only going to help us in the running game, but also the passing game. If you give him the ball at 5 yards, he'll get you 10 out of it."
This type of explosiveness has eluded McGahee recently.
In 2004, he scored 13 touchdowns and broke 10 runs of at least 20 yards. In the past two seasons, he has totaled 11 touchdowns and eight runs of at least 20 yards.
This season is about changing direction for McGahee.
He's already taken the first step to do so, settling in with the Ravens while putting his unsettled days with the Bills in the past.
"I have nothing to prove to Buffalo," McGahee said. "It was fun while it lasted, but that's behind me right now. It's all in the past. I'm not even worried about it because I'm on a new team. We've got bigger and better things to worry about."
• Notes // The Ravens' second voluntary minicamp ends tomorrow. The next one is scheduled for May 30 to June 1. All practices are closed to the public.
For a Willis McGahee photo gallery, go to baltimoresun.com/mcgahee.
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