McGahee bracing for rude return

OWINGS MILLS -- Willis McGahee wisely declined to pour more verbal gasoline on the bridges he torched during his bitter divorce from the Buffalo Bills. Days prior to his return to extremely unfriendly territory, the Baltimore Ravens running back coyly pretended that he had amnesia in an impressive effort to avoid further controversy.

Months after suggesting in a Penthouse interview in January that the Bill should be transplanted to Toronto, after criticizing the women, nightlife and restaurants of upstate New York this spring and after a rocky four-year tenure where he drew the ire of the team for his sparse attendance at offseason workouts with one Buffalo assistant coach accusing McGahee of not diligently studying the playbook, McGahee had a predictable answer for that lengthy back-story.

As far as he's concerned, it's all in the past.

"Who said that? I don't even know what you're talking about," McGahee said Wednesday when asked about his numerous comments about the city of Buffalo. "Right now, we have one thing in mind and that's to win. Buffalo is a nice city. We're going to go in, we're going to win, do what we do and get out of there."

Since being acquired in a trade for three draft picks from the Bills, McGahee has mostly taken the high road about his former employer. That is, for the most part.

When he switched teams in March, McGahee claimed he was lucky to even rush for a career-worst 990 yards last season behind a shaky offensive line. Now, he's the NFL's fourth-leading rusher with 525 yards and one touchdown on 127 carries.

"My situation wasn't that great in Buffalo," he said.

A few weeks later, he piled on the city of Buffalo's lack of excitement compared to his hometown of Miami.

For several reasons, McGahee is bracing himself for a hostile environment.

There's a Web site devoted to hating Willis McGahee called It includes negative T-shirts that direct profanities toward him.

It also has a rap song ripping McGahee with one excerpt reading: "That dude's got some nerve, running his mouth. This cat thinks we're gonna be silent. This dude is a clown. What's wrong with this coward? He should be pom-pommed up, shaking for cash. Baltimore got our garbage because Willis is trash."


McGahee has tried to stay above the fray, even denying that any additional motivation exists in light of the overwhelmingly negative reaction to him in Buffalo.

He even jokingly asked whether he was going to receive any of the profits from all those T-shirts and CDs deriding him.

"I don't have any chip on my shoulder," McGahee said. "They didn't do nothing to me. We're all going to shake hands at the end of the game and go on about our business. .. I don't have anything to prove to Buffalo."

After sitting out his rookie campaign in Buffalo due to a severe knee injury suffered in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State, the first-round draft pick rushed for 3,665 yards and 24 touchdowns in three seasons and was selected to one Pro Bowl.

Now, McGahee is heading back to the blue-collar town that he used to call home.

"People are never going to be happy," McGahee said during a conference call with Buffalo reporters. "One minute they love you and the next minute, you're the worst guy in the world. Once something leaves your mouth, it never comes back the way you said it.

"Everybody is going to have their own opinion on things and how they look at me now, so I can't do anything about it to change their mind. Once you get to know me, it would be a different story. You would be like, 'He's really down to earth.' I just be chillin', man."

Ravens defensive tackle Justin Bannan, a former Buffalo teammate, acknowledged that McGahee could be in store for a rude awakening when he steps into Ralph Wilson Stadium on the visitors' sideline for the first time.

"Those fans are wild, they don't mess around," Bannan said. "It's a hostile environment, and those fans take their football seriously.

"Honestly, I don't know what it's going to be like for Willis, but I just hope that they will take into account that he played his butt off for Buffalo when he was there."

Ravens coach Brian Billick said he's unconcerned about any potential distractions arising for McGahee, that his star runner might get swept up in the prodigal-son-returning plot line that underscores this game.

"I don't know that it's a particularly big deal for him," Billick said. "I doubt that it will be a distraction."

However, Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton isn't convinced that McGahee hasn't attached extra motivation to this unfriendly reunion.

"We know he'd like to come out of there with a good 100-yard game and maybe four or five touchdowns," Clayton said.

Buffalo coach Dick Jauron denied that there was any bad blood between the AFC East organization and McGahee, or that he detected a bad attitude from his former player, which was echoed by Bills wide receiver Lee Evans.

Although McGahee was limited in practice with a knee injury after getting knocked around during a 22-3 win over the St. Louis Rams where he scored his first rushing touchdown since joining the Ravens, Billick downplayed any chance that he might not be available: "Not that I'm aware of."

It's no secret how the people of Buffalo feel about McGahee. They regard him as a divisive figure.

Buffalo News columnist Bob DiCesare wrote that removing McGahee had "purged the rot" from the Bills' locker room.

When asked to describe his legacy in Buffalo and why the fans dislike him with such intensity, McGahee delicatedly stepped around the question as if he were eluding a linebacker.

"I was just a regular player, a regular person," McGahee said. "I just happened to move on. You can't look back on the past. You just have to move forward.

"I left and it wasn't a good note, so they're going to be a little upset. The stuff I hear on road games, there's not going to be nothing new. That's in any city."

Disgruntled in Buffalo, McGahee is definitely happy in Baltimore. Especially after signing a $40.12 million contract extension in March.

With the Ravens, he's surrounded by fellow University of Miami football alums, including linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed. Plus, he's the centerpiece of a conservative ball-control offense.

It's a fresh start.

"I hope I fit in pretty good," McGahee said. "Everybody laughs and jokes with me. I hope it's nothing behind my back going on. I'm happy to be a part of this situation."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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