McGahee: 'There's no reason to be frustrated'

OWINGS MILLS -- Willis McGahee broke his silence about his unexplained disappearing act from the Baltimore Ravens' running game, insisting that he isn't frustrated or angry about being exiled to the bench against the Cincinnati Bengals. McGahee claimed he had no answers for why he didn't play in a 34-3 demolishing of the Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

However, it's actually believed to be a situation prompted by season-long internal issues that have prompted meetings with coach John Harbaugh and team officials.

With McGahee on the sidelines wearing a cape, fullback Le'Ron McClain started at tailback for the first time and rushed for 86 yards on 25 carries.

"There's no need to be frustrated," McGahee said. "It's not going to get you anywhere. You can pout and cry all you want, but you're still not going to get on the field.

"Just be calm with it. Be glad that you are resting now, because I could tear up my knee even more. Then, it would be drastic or something like that."

It has definitely been a drastic fall for McGahee after being named to the Pro Bowl last season as an injury replacement for LaDainian Tomlinson after leading the Ravens with 1,207 rushing yards during his first season in Baltimore.

Since rushing for a season-high 112 yards against the Houston Texans, McGahee has rushed for a total of 26 yards on 16 carries over the past three games.

For the season, McGahee ranks second on the team with just 489 yards after gaining 1,000 yards in three of the past four seasons. Although he has dealt with knee, ankle, rib and eye injuries, there's more afoot here than the toll of a bruising workload.

When asked specifically why he was held out against the Bengals, McGahee replied: "I don't have an answer."

McGahee, who skipped the majority of the offseason program and showed up at training camp admittedly out of shape before hurting his left knee and undergoing arthroscopic surgery, has less yards and attempts than McClain.

McGahee said he can't recall being this banged-up during his career.

"I've been plagued with injuries all year long, this is the most injuries I've had in a year," McGahee said. "It's kind of rough. Nobody's really 100 percent on the football field. I can go out and play and do what I have to do. They rested me, so I can't complain."

Two days after Harbaugh declared that McGahee would be a huge part of the Ravens' game plan in December, he issued a terse reply when asked if the week off would be beneficial to McGahee entering Sunday night's game against the Washington Redskins.

"That's irrelevant," Harbaugh said. "It's not a question that needs to be addressed."

Ravens center Jason Brown was outspoken when the McGahee topic was broached, talking passionately for several minutes about how the team won't allow any problems to fester or become divisive.

"I've never witnessed such a brotherhood," he said. "We are a family right now. We might not always see eye to eye, but we've got love for one another.

"We're very much on the same page. Nobody is going to separate us right now. If he's strategically being sat out for the playoffs, then that's a positive. Willis can help us for the long stretch."

McGahee has averaged 291 carries over the past four seasons, but has just 141 attempts this year. At this rate, he's unlikely to hit 200 carries for the year.

He's averaging only 3.5 yards per carry with a long run of 17 yards, and the Ravens are continually demonstrating that they can win without him playing a major role.

The Ravens are 3-0 in the games that McGahee has sat out, and sport the NFL's third-ranked rushing offense with an average of 143.8 yards per contest.

When asked if his ego was smarting, McGahee shrugged his shoulders.

"It's like a positive right now," he said. "The injuries I have, it just gives me a chance to heal my body and let it rest even more, just adding on another couple years to my football span."

Preserving longevity is a separate issue, though, one that doesn't entirely explain McGahee dipping on the depth chart.

He was unproductive in a loss to the New York Giants, gaining just 18 yards on nine carries. And he was limited to eight yards in seven carries against the Philadelphia Eagles the following week.

McGahee's descent has coincided with the climb of McClain, a hard-nosed 260-pounder who leads Baltimore with a career-high 545 rushing yards and six touchdowns. And rookie second-round pick Ray Rice has contributed 423 yards on 104 carries and ranks second on the team with 34 receptions.

"The better I do, the more my role expands," Rice said.

Both Rice and McClain have higher rushing averages than McGahee.

Despite the uncertain outlook, McGahee is doing his best to take the high road and avoid controversy. He reiterated that he'll be ready if the coaching staff sends him into the huddle.

He added that he won't know until the end of the week if he's going to be involved.

"When my number is called, I will be out there," he said. "If not, Ray and Le'Ron are doing a great job. It's not like the running game is really struggling. So, I don't mind sitting back and watching.

"There's no need to complain because it's not going to get you anywhere. Just sit there and wait."

Meanwhile, McClain is preparing as if he might start again this week even though he hasn't been informed yet what the rotation will bring.

"I really don't know," he said. "I guess everybody has to wait until Sunday. We just go with the flow. Whatever goes, goes."

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