McGahee out for season finale

OWINGS MILLS -- Star running back Willis McGahee has been declared out for the Baltimore Ravens' season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers due to two fractured ribs, yet another blow to a football team decimated by injuries. With McGahee hurt in the first quarter of a 27-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on a hit from Lofa Tatupu, he was replaced by veteran running back Mike Anderson.

Anderson led Baltimore with 44 rushing yards on eight carries, but lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Leroy Hill.

There's no guarantee that Anderson will be available, though, against Pittsburgh because of a strained quadriceps.

If Anderson can't go, then Musa Smith would start and Cory Ross would operate as the backup. For a team already forced to play without middle linebacker Ray Lewis (dislocated finger), cornerbacks Samari Rolle (shoulder) and Chris McAlister (strained right knee), tight ends Todd Heap (hamstring strain) and Daniel Wilcox (thigh), and quarterback Kyle Boller (concussion), the Ravens are even more banged-up now.

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden aggravated his hamstring against Seattle, leaving the game along with tight end Quinn Sypniewski (concussion) and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg (strained arch). Earlier this season, defensive end Trevor Pryce (torn pectoral) and quarterback Steve McNair (torn rotator cuff) were placed on injured reserve.

"In my 30-some odd years, I don't remember ever having gone through this type of thing," Ravens coach Brian Billick said Monday. "This year, it has felt different. There's a totally different feel to it."

OGDEN'S FUTURE: Ogden's decision on whether to retire looms large this week since it's the final game of the season and potentially his 12-year career, prompting questions about his unresolved plans.

The Ravens have no intention of pushing the 11-time Pro Bowl left tackle for a quick decision.

"We've all kind of kept that at arm's length," Billick said. "Certainly, his Pro Bowl selection is an indicator to everybody that he can continue to play probably for as long as he wants to. I don't know that Jonathan's made a definitive decision. I don't know that he's shared that with anybody. So, we'll give him the proper respect that he's due.

"Regardless of what he wants to do, coaching Jonathan Ogden has been one of the highlights of my coaching career. To be around a bonafide, guaranteed, first-ballot Hall of Famer, you don't get that opportunity all that often. It's special as a coach."

When asked whether he had gleaned any hints from Ogden about which way he's leaning, Billick smiled.

"It's hard to get a read on Jonathan," he said. "It's a matter of, 'Do I want to do these things in the upcoming offseason that I know that I have to do to continue to play at a high level?'

"And that's not a question that he'll have an answer for two days, three days, three weeks, a month after the season, I wouldn't think. Or he might. I wouldn't want to guess here."

MARTIN SHINES IN LOSS: Cornerback Derrick Martin had arguably his best football game since joining the Ravens last season, intercepting a pass and dropping a few other couple potential interceptions.

He replaced cornerback Willie Gaston, who started and was benched after being beaten for a touchdown pass by Nate Burleson.

"It was not as good a day as it could have been," Martin told reporters in Seattle. "If I had made those other plays, you never know what could have happened."

It was a much better performance than how he was picked on by Ben Roethlisberger in a loss at Pittsburgh, including one memorable sequence where Martin swatted at the football after it had already passed over his head to Santonio Holmes.

"I'm trying to get experience, and it's good to get that experience as a secondary," Martin said. "Whatever happens next year for us, I hope we can stay together and keep this chemistry going."

NEUHEISEL UPDATE: Now that Oregon coach Mike Bellotti has withdrawn his name from consideration for the UCLA head coaching vacancy, Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel has been branded as the frontrunner for the job at his alma mater in college football circles.

However, the former University of Colorado and University of Washington coach faces competition from UCLA interim head coach DeWayne Walker and Temple coach Al Golden.

"I can't comment on that," Neuheisel said Sunday. "I've said I'm interested, but the important thing is they do what's best for them and I've certainly got things to concentrate on with our game against Pittsburgh."

Neuheisel also reflected on his return to the Pacific Northwest, where he went 33-16 with the Huskies and won a Rose Bowl title before being fired in 2003 for participating in an NCAA basketball pool. He settled a wrongful termination lawsuit with the university for $4.5 million.

"I have fond memories of Seattle," Neuheisel said. "A messy ending, an unfortunate ending, but I look forward to the day when we can put all that stuff behind us and we will be talking about the Huskies in the Rose Bowl and all good things.

"It was just a very unfortunate ending where nobody really won. It was a sad ending to what otherwise was a very, very good time."

MASON'S STAT DAY, YEAR: Wide receiver Derrick Mason's 79-yard touchdown catch pushed him over 1,000 receiving yards or the season, notching five receptions for 98 yards.

For the season, he has caught a career-high 97 passes for 1,015 yards and five touchdowns. Last year, he slumped to 68 catches for 750 yards and two touchdowns and complained openly about his decreased workload.

"As a player when you come off a very disappointing year, your mindset is to come back, work extra hard and play with a chip on your shoulder," Mason said. "And that's what I've done."

QUICK HITS: Starting in place of Lewis, backup middle linebacker Nick Greisen recorded a game-high 10 tackles. "I thought I had more good plays than obviously bad, but it's a tough place to be right now when guys work so hard and things don't work out for you," Greisen said. "I don't think you can ever prove yourself enough. You always have to showcase your talents, and when you get the opportunity, you have to make the most out of it." ... Without Lewis, the Ravens allowed a season-high 144 rushing yards to the NFL's 20th-ranked rushing offense. "We miss Ray every play," said safety Ed Reed, who intercepted his seventh pass of the year. "You want your leader to be out there directing traffic. Ray is still the star of this defense." ... The NFL shifted Sunday's game against Pittsburgh from a 1 p.m. kickoff to 4: 15 p.m. ... The Ravens have lost three games by 20 points or more this year. ... Billick said that Seattle coach Mike Holmgren wasn't upset at him for calling a pair of timeouts during the Seahawks' final drive in an effort to get Troy Smith more playing time. "Mike understood, I said, "Hey man, I'm sorry, but I need to get this young guy as many snaps as I can,'" Billick said. "And Mike said, 'Hey, been there, know that.'" ... Even if Sypniewski is unable to play this week, the Ravens are unlikely to sign another tight end with Lee Vickers the only completely healthy one on the roster. "This late on Christmas, some guy opening presents that's not taken a snap in the NFL? I don't think so," Billick said. "We'll have to find some other answer if Quinn can't go." ... Linebacker Robert McCune, who was promoted from the practice squad when the team cut kicker Rhys Lloyd, registered a tackle on a kickoff.

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


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