McGahee a game-time decision

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee expressed optimism that he might be able to start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, a sentiment that isn't shared as strongly by the coaching staff.

Although McGahee has been practicing after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee three weeks ago, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron expects him to be a game-time decision for the opener. Rookie Ray Rice has been preparing to start in his place.

"You can see that he's getting close," Cameron said. "Whether that'll mean this week or not, I don't know. Obviously, we'll be ready to play without him. We have to be."

McGahee was limited in practice for the second day in a row, acknowledging that swelling in his knee has persisted since he began running and cutting last week.

A Pro Bowl alternate last season, McGahee wants to start against Cincinnati.

"That's the plan, but it all depends on how the knee feels," McGahee said. "If it's not reacting good, then it doesn't make any sense to go out there, but if it's good, then it's a go. So, I'd say it's about 50-50.

"Keeping the swelling down, that's the issue right now. If it keeps swelling up, then we're going to have a problem. If something is wrong, you aggravate it more."

McGahee, who led the Ravens with 1,207 rushing yards last season, missed the entire preseason with the injury after skipping the majority of the offseason minicamps.

Knowledge of the playbook and conditioning could also be potential issues.

"You've got to be out on the field with the guys to get all the timing right and get the blocking schemes," McGahee said. "That's when you come in and you've got to be a professional and adjust to whatever type of environment it is."

Cameron said that he's not concerned about McGahee's familiarity with his system despite the missed practice time.

"I don't look at it as a stumbling block because he's so bright," Cameron said. "My experience with him has been that once he gets it, he's got it. If anything, he comes in with questions. To me, that means he's into it mentally."

Drafted in the second round out of Rutgers, Rice started every preseason contest and rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

Rice, whose mother, Janet Rice, plans to attend every home game, would form a rookie backfield tandem with first-round quarterback Joe Flacco if McGahee is sidelined.

"If he's back and healthy, I think our offense will be a lot better because of what he can contribute to this offense," Rice said. "When he's back, he's back. But, if not, when I'm in there, I'm the starter whether I started the game.

"If I rush for over 100 yards, it's just one of those things. Anything that happens in that game would be big for me as a rookie."

INJURY REPORT: Nose guard Kelly Gregg (left arthroscopic knee surgery) didn't practice again while doing some light running and agility drills on the side with trainer Bill Tessendorf, and appears to be a long shot to play Sunday.

Gregg was favoring his left leg and didn't get much push when he changed direction.

If Gregg is out, then Justin Bannan and Marques Douglas would fill in for him.

"You're always hopeful that Kelly can play," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "People don't really notice him until he's not in there."

Safety Ed Reed (nerve impingement in neck and left shoulder) and tight end Todd Heap (right calf) were limited again.

Quarterback Troy Smith (tonsil infection) didn't practice.

Right guard Marshal Yanda (thumb) and rookie offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (back) were added to the injury report, but participated fully in practice.

Cornerback Chris McAlister (right knee) is a question mark, but has been practicing.

"We hope Chris is going to be great," Ryan said. "If he's healthy and ready to roll, then I'm sure he'll make a good account of himself."

BOLLER UPDATE: Former starting quarterback Kyle Boller, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a serious injury to his throwing shoulder, will undergo surgery today, according to Cameron.

"It's unfortunate," Cameron said. "You feel for Kyle. It's kind of emotional for me because you see the sacrifices he made for all of us. There's no one that worked harder in this organization getting ready to help this team win than Kyle Boller."

SURPRISED: Cornerback Derrick Martin, who is suspended for the first game without pay after being cited and charged in July at the Cleveland airport with possession of three small bags of marijuana during a random TSA search, said he was surprised at the NFL punishment.

"We were thinking they would hopefully forget about me," said Martin, who pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct as the drug charge was dropped. "It's unfortunate, but you move on."

Martin expects to be ready for the second game against the Houston Texans as the swelling has gone down in his right shoulder after tearing sutures from an offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum.

ROSTER MOVE: The Ravens brought back cornerback Evan Oglesby, who spent two seasons with the Ravens prior to playing eight games for the Dallas Cowboys last year. The team cut cornerback Anwar Phillips.

QUICK HITS: In the wake of recently-released linebacker Gary Stills signing with the St. Louis Rams, special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said it was a difficult decision to part ways with the former Pro Bowl special-teams ace. "I think it was tough for everybody in the building," he said. "That's the harsh part of this business. Gary Stills leaves us with profound respect. Gary can still play, and I was real happy to see that St. Louis picked him up." ... Rosburg said the team hasn't decided yet whether rookie Steve Hauschka will be active Sunday as a kickoff specialist. ...The Bengals added defensive tackle John Thornton (knee, limited), running back Kenny Watson (hamstring, limited), wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring, full participation) and defensive end Antwan Odom (foot) to the injury report.

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


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