McGahee to make complete recovery

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee is expected to make a complete recovery from a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit in the AFC title game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night when he was dealt a crushing blow from safety Ryan Clark that knocked him unconscious with a concussion and a lingering sore neck. There was no permanent damage, according to team officials.

And McGahee rejoined his teammates at the Ravens' training complex Monday morning after being released from a Pittsburgh hospital following an overnight stay.

"I'm all right, everything is okay," said McGahee, emphasizing that he would be able to play next season. "The MRI and the CAT scan checked out good. I was scared, but I didn't know how serious it was. It was pretty intense. My neck is sore as hell right now."

The Ravens issued a statement Monday afternoon from team spokesman Kevin Byrne noting that McGahee was released from UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh early Monday morning.

"It's expected that Willis will have a complete recovery from the head and neck injuries he suffered last night," Byrne said.

McGahee caught a short pass from quarterback Joe Flacco when he was blasted by Clark, whose helmet collided full-force with McGahee's facemask. The impact caused the running back's head to snap back violently. McGahee wasn't moving on the ground for several minutes before being revived by trainers.

"I blacked out, I woke up when they were taking my facemask off," McGahee said. "I opened my eyes and I was talking. The next thing I knew, I woke up in some room and they were taking me to the ambulance."

McGahee's mother was extremely concerned about her son's condition following the scary hit.

"She was distraught," McGahee said. "She was all shaken up. Everybody was shaken up. I've never been taken off the field like that. When I called them, everybody was relieved."

Added cornerback Fabian Washington: "It was a scary moment, but he made it through and everything is good now."

McGahee has yet to watch replays of the hit and had a generally foggy memory about what happened.

"I didn't see the play," he said. "I didn't even see the guy coming."

McGahee said he has received a call expressing concern from Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden and heard that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had been trying to get in touch with him as well, but hasn't heard from Clark.

"I don't know him like that," McGahee said. "When you play football, there's a bond as football players."

Clark will not be fined for the hit, according to a league official.

"He had completed the catch and was a runner," the league official said. "Helmet-to-helmet contact is legal in that situation as it is for any ball carrier. Helmet-to-helmet contact is prohibited against defenseless players, defined as a receiver in the process of making a catch or a quarterback in the act of passing."

McGahee demonstrated excellent recall of the aftermath of what he acknowledged was the hardest hit he's ever taken in his life.

"I felt like I was okay when I was on the ground, regained consciousness and starting moving," McGahee said. "But then they told me not to move, so I started to get a little worried. After we got inside they took X-rays and told me everything was okay. Everything went numb when it happened. I knew something had happened because my arms and legs were numb."

McGahee rushed for a game-high 60 yards and two touchdowns, replacing starter Le'Ron McClain because of a nagging ankle injury. For McGahee, it was a rare start after losing his job to McClain due to multiple injuries and a lack of consistent production this season.

"I had fun," he said. "I wasn't down when I wasn't the featured back. When I found out I would be the featured back, it wasn't like I ran around with my head off screaming. I just wanted to make a difference in the football game. This was my first AFC championship. We wanted to perform and win."

McGahee clashed with the new coaching staff at times after rushing for 1,207 yards a year ago, skipping the majority of the offseason workouts and admittedly reported slightly out of shape. He expressed frustration late in the season about his reduced role as he rushed for a career-low 671 yards while scoring seven touchdowns.

Nonetheless, McGahee said he would like to return next season. McGahee is under contract after signing a $40.12 million deal after being acquired via a trade from the Buffalo Bills in 2007. It would be extremely costly against the salary cap for the Ravens to part ways with him after two seasons.

"It's a business, I can't control that," McGahee said. "If I am back, I will be here and my teammates know what kind of person I am and know what they're going to get from me. Of course, I want to be here."

QUICK HITS: Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis visited the Cleveland Browns on Monday afternoon, meeting with Browns coach Eric Mangini and other team executives in what shapes up as a potential precursor to formally joining the Browns. Although Kokinis, 41, hasn't been formally offered the general manager job yet, he's expected to receive an offer from owner Randy Lerner and accept the position later this week. There have been unconfirmed rumors that Kokinis has already cleaned out his office at the Ravens' team headquarters. ... Ravens outside linebackers coach Mike Pettine,=2 0who's expected to join former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's New York Jets staff as defensive coordinator, packed up his belongings Monday night. ... The Ravens hold the 26th overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft. ... Strong safety Dawan Landry's condition is improving after suffering a season-ending spinal cord concussion against the Cleveland Browns in September, but he still hasn't been cleared for contact. He said he still has tingling sensations in his neck months after his helmet collided with Browns running back Jamal Lewis' thigh and he was carted off the field. "I'm hungry, I'm itching for next season," Landry said. "Physically, I'm pretty strong. I'm not cleared yet, so I'm still waiting on the doctor to give me the go-ahead. I have some tingling. It comes and goes. I feel fine, but I have to get that out of the way to be able to play." ...

Outside linebacker Antwan Barnes is recovering from recent surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, an injury incurred against the Dallas Cowboys. "They put it back together, so I should be ready in a couple of months," Barnes said. "I had the surgery after the Miami game. They decided it was best to get it over with." ... There are rumors swirling that the Dallas Cowboys have a strong interest in signing Ravens star middle linebacker Ray Lewis to a lucrative contract if he makes it to free agency. Ravens team owner Steve Bisciotti has repeatedly said that he wants Lewis to remain in Baltimore. Lewis didn't comment on his status or the team's loss to the Steelers on Sunday night and wasn't in the locker room Monday when it was open to reporters.

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

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