McGahee on the upswing

OWINGS MILLS -- The fluid drained from Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee's left knee filled up a large syringe last week, a painful procedure prior to a 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins. McGahee still wound up producing his top performance of the season, rushing for 105 yards and scoring his second touchdown of the year.

Although he clearly wasn't 100 percent, McGahee generated his first 100-yard game since a Dec. 16, 2007 overtime loss to the Dolphins. He was upgraded to full participation in practice Thursday on the official injury report.

"I've been dealing with the knee all year, and, hopefully, it acts right this week," said McGahee, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in August. "It's just football, it happens. I'm all right to play."

Unlike previous outings where he has been limited by eye, rib and knee injuries, McGahee finished the game and piled up a season-high 152 yards of total offense. He also lost a fumble after a 35-yard screen, but redeemed himself with a five-yard touchdown to close the game out.

"The first four games were really my preseason," said McGahee, who was inactive during the preseason and didn't play in the season-opener due to the knee. "I was a little rusty, but, hopefully, it can be this way week in and week out now."

McGahee has averaged 94.4 rushing yards in four games at Dolphin Stadium, excelling in familiar territory in the NFL after starring at the University of Miami.

"It's always a good feeling when you play in your hometown," McGahee said. "I've been playing every year since I've been in the league. It tends to get a little old, but you still have a little fire in you."

For the season, McGahee has gained a team-high 293 yards on 77 carries for a 3.8 average with 11 receptions for 105 yards.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had envisioned making McGahee the centerpiece of the offense during the offseason. Now, he's hoping to increase McGahee's role if his health allows.

"I have a ton of respect for what Willis did last week, taking 30 cc out of a knee and then coming out with that type of performance," Cameron said. "That's something he's going to manage throughout the year.

"He's getting healthier, and we need to keep him healthy. I think we all know what type of player he is and can be. That's critical for our offense, especially through the grind of the season."

BOOTING IT: Punter Sam Koch is having a stellar campaign, averaging 48 yards with a 42.9 net average that leads the NFL.

He had a career-high 59.0 average against Miami, including a career-high and franchise-record tying 67-yard punt.

Koch credits his improvement to an offseason spent studying his craft.

"I just did a lot of work on my drop and position of the ball, which has allowed for more consistency and I've worked a lot on the details to improve leg extension," Koch said. "I'm a lot more flexible. I was punching the ball last year. This year, I'm following through."

Koch has downed eight punts inside the 20-yard line, excelling at placing the football with so-called "coffin corner" kicks to pin down opposing return specialists.

"Sam is performing very well, his numbers on Sunday would demonstrate that," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "He really had a great offseason. Part of it is that he analyzed what he needed to do better.

"We talked about it, and he went about trying to change the way that he punts. There are a million little small things that are involved in it, but probably the best thing that he did is to analyze himself and he worked at it."

The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder former Nebraska punter has also gotten in better shape each year, dropping 10 pounds since his rookie year.

Although cornerback Corey Ivy laughed when Koch was talking about his improved conditioning, there's no denying that he's much leaner than last year.

"It might not show to Corey, but as far as working out, getting strong and flexibility, I would like to say I'm in better shape," Koch said. "It's a lot better now than it was."

INJURY REPORT: Strong safety Dawan Landry said he'll be out at least another two weeks with a spinal cord concussion. He'll be examined again by doctors in two weeks to determine his progress.

"Hopefully, I'll be playing before the end of the year," Landry said. "I won't need surgery. It has been going really well. I've been running and everything seems fine. I feel pretty good."

Safety Ed Reed (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis after missing Wednesday.

However, wide receiver Derrick Mason (illness) didn't practice as well as wide receiver Demetrius Williams (left Achilles' tendon) and return specialist Yamon Figurs (left knee contusion).

That meant the Ravens had just four receivers at practice: Mark Clayton, Marcus Smith and Ernie Wheelwright as well as practice-squad member Edward Williams.

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (neck stinger) and cornerback Chris McAlister (right knee) were limited again.

Cornerback Derrick Martin (shoulder) participated fully.

SORE SUBJECT: Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan joined coach John Harbaugh in not shedding light on McAlister being benched against the Dolphins. He declined to say if McAlister would regain his job or if Frank Walker would start again in his place.

"I don't want to give any insight to the Raiders on who's starting or whatever," said Ryan, adding that it's his decision on who starts on defense. "You guys look into it anyway you want to."

When asked if McAlister would be considered one of the Ravens' top 11 defensive players considering his three Pro Bowl selections and leading the team with three interceptions, Ryan got a bit testy.

"You know, you figure it out," Ryan said. "You guys probably know the defense better than I do and what's best for us. We're going to do what's best for our football team. If that means to take out Ray Lewis, then we'll take out Ray Lewis if we think that's our best matchup.

"We owe it to our football team to do what we think is best, whatever it is. We put in 100 hours of tape where the fan and most people are only watching three hours, the length of the game. I'm not being critical of anybody else, but I think it's just time to focus on who we're playing, really."

ROSTER MOVE: The Ravens cut cornerback Derrick Roberson from the practice squad and signed center Marvin Phillip, a former Cal-Berkeley player.

QUICK HITS: Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said he's not concerned about Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs' comments about allegedly placing a bounty on him. "I'm not worrying about what a guy says about a bounty," Ward told Pittsburgh reporters. "I've been having a bounty on me for five years now. I'm sure that everybody in our division has a bounty on me. Everyone wants to knock this smile off my face. I'll let the NFL handle that." ... The Ravens are concerned with blocking Pro Bowl defensive end Derrick Burgess. "Derrick Burgess is one of the best in the league at his position," offensive tackle Willie Anderson said. "He brings an array of moves." ... Ryan weighed in on former Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan being fired by the San Francisco 49ers and replaced by former Baltimore linebackers coach Mike Singletary. "I'm excited for Mike Singletary to get that opportunity, I think he'll do a tremendous job," Ryan said. "He's a guy who can motivate people. He probably gives the best speeches I've heard a guy give. I think they lost a heck of a coach in Mike Nolan. I hate to see one of my friends lose a job when the season's not even over. I think that's kind of ridiculous. I guess adversity to some becomes opportunity to others. Hopefully, Mike Singletary will do a good job and he'll be able to stay in that position, but I sure feel for Mike Nolan." ... Burgess (triceps) and linebacker Jon Alston (foot) didn't practice, and rookie running back Darren McFadden (toe) and defensive tackle Gerard Warren were limited.


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