McNair: 'I'm healthy and ready to go'

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair has apparently regained all of his faculties following a concussion and declared himself fit to start Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. It was McNair's first full workout under center Wednesday since suffering a Grade 2 concussion and a sprained neck in a 23-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

After sitting out of Sunday's practice and being limited during Monday's workout, McNair practiced without incident as the Ravens began installing their game plan. "I think today was the key to go out and execute the offense without any confusion, without any pause, without any hesitation," said McNair, who was listed as questionable on the injury report. "I've done that. I think it's fair to say I'm healthy and ready to go.
"I felt better than I have in a long time. I got the brains back working again. I felt fresh, felt rejuvenated. I worked out as hard as I could, tried to overload my brain and see if it's going to have a reaction."
Although McNair has a significant medical history, he described this as the first concussion of his career. He did incur a mild concussion in 2002 while with the Tennessee Titans, but didn't miss a game.
"He seemed fresh, ready to go," tight end Todd Heap said. "You couldn't tell anything about a concussion or anything. Basically, it's like the normal Steve out there."
Under the direction of a new offensive coordinator following Jim Fassel's dismissal and Ravens coach Brian Billick installing himself to call the plays, McNair is looking to dramatically improve a statistically-challenged offense. Baltimore (4-2) ranks 28th in the NFL in total offense and is averaging only 18.3 points per game to rank 22nd overall.
Although McNair has engineered a pair of last-minute comeback victories, the three-time Pro Bowl passer has struggled for the most part. He has thrown seven interceptions and five touchdowns for a 64.1 passer rating that ranks him 30th among NFL starters.
McNair acknowledged that he's been pressing lately, throwing four interceptions in his past 38 throws over a two-game losing streak. He has three interceptions in his last dozen attempts dating back to the fourth quarter of a 13-3 loss to the Denver Broncos, completing 2 of 4 passes for one interception prior to getting hurt against Carolina.
"It all starts with me," McNair said. "I handle the ball 99 percent of the time during the course of the game. I have to make sure that I'm not pressing myself, trying to do too much and give the other 10 guys a chance to make plays. "I haven't done that. I've tried to do too much. I have to relax and play football. Last week was a good week to sit back and evaluate myself and see what I need to do to improve the offense."
With Billick assuming play-calling duties full-time for the first time since his arrival in Baltimore in 1999, several players said that the offense had been streamlined and that individual plays are discussed in greater detail.
"It's a great change, and I think a lot of the players are into it," said McNair, who said he wouldn't have medically been able to play last week if Baltimore hadn't had a bye. "We've got to believe in it and go out and execute it. I think we've got some stuff in that we can go out and get myself in a rhythm, get this offense in a rhythm.
"The situation we're in now we've got to get better offensively. We've got too many good athletes to be in the position we're in."
McNair noted that the communication between Billick and himself has to evolve and improve markedly now that Billick is acting in a dual capacity as head coach and coordinator.
"We have to have a lot better relationship than we did in the past, we had a good relationship in the past, but it has to be better now that he's taken over the play-calling," McNair said. "I have an opportunity to give my input on what I like during the week. If I don't like it, we'll talk about it. He decides whether to keep it in or not."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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