McGahee: "It's how you finish"

BALTIMORE -- Willis McGahee endured two knee surgeries over the past year along with painful eye, rib and ankle injuries as well as being momentarily knocked out on a devastating tackle delivered by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark during the AFC title game.

The Baltimore Ravens' running back also dealt with the embarrassment of spending unprecedented time on the bench, a heavy dose of criticism for admittedly not being in optimum condition and generating career-low numbers.

After such a frustrating season, McGahee is determined to win back his starting job and regain his old Pro Bowl form.

Stating that he's 100 percent healthy after undergoing offseason knee surgery, McGahee anticipates opening training camp behind former second-round draft pick Ray Rice in the backfield.

"I'm pretty sure Ray is going to be the guy when we start out, but it's training camp," McGahee said Wednesday during an appearance at the downtown Boost Mobile cell phone outlet in conjunction with his charitable foundation. "It's a long season. No pressure. Like I say, it's not how you start. It's how you finish."

McGahee, 27, rushed for a career-low 671 yards in eight starts last season as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron institu ted a committee approach where playing time was divided between McGahee, Rice and Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain.

McGahee lined up with the second-string offense during minicamps after missing the majority of the practices while Rice impressed the coaching staff with his progress.

Last year, McGahee arrived at training camp carrying some extra pounds and quickly injured his knee and had to undergo arthroscopic surgery.

This time, McGahee proclaimed that he's 100 percent healthy heading into camp. Wearing a T-shirt, McGahee appeared to be in good shape.

"Heath-wise, I feel great," McGahee said. "But once you play ball, it's a different story. Right now, I'm 100 percent."

McGahee acknowledged that his stock isn't exactly at a high point two years removed from rushing for 1,207 yards in 2007 during his first season in Baltimore following a trade from the Buffalo Bills.

"I've got a lot of doubters out there," McGahee said. "It's going to be fun. They can look at me and smile and say, 'He's in great shape. He's doing this, he's doing that.' It's about me proving that I can be Willis McGahee. Yeah, they're sleeping on me, but I want them to sleep on me.

"I just want to show them. They've been counting me out since Day One, since I got into the league. What's another day? Let them keep counting me out."

McGahee indicated that he has been asked to report Monday along with quarterbacks, rookies and other selected veterans.

"It's no pressure," he said. "You go in there and have to be a professional about things."

Signed to a $40.12 million contract after the Ravens acquired him for a pair of third-round draft picks and a seventh-round selection, McGahee was limited to a career-low 170 carries and eight starts last year.

Quarterback Joe Flacco weighed in on McGahee during a minicamp this June.

"Yeah, well, Willis showed up to see if he can do something for the team," a smiling Flacco said. "We all expect him to be here and expect him to do a good job when he's here."

McGahee, who rushed for two touchdowns and 60 yards against the Steelers before being carted off the field with a neck injury, is looking forward to a healthy season.

"I came off a Pro Bowl season and the next year I was sidelined by injuries," said McGahee, whose foundation, which benefits underprivileged children and battered women, received a $5,000 donation and a pledge to donate $500 for each touchdown he scores this season. "That's something that you can't control. It was just one injury after another. It was an injury bug last year and hopefully it's all behind me."

NOTE: Veteran wide receiver Joe Horn is interested in playing for the Ravens, and his agent has been talking with General Manager Ozzie Newsome this week.

Horn's agent, Ralph Vitolo, said he was informed that the team would be in touch with him after a Friday tryout that includes free agents Drew Bennett and D.J. Hackett.

"Joe could be that game-breaking presence for the Ravens," Vitolo said in a telephone interview. "He's in great shape, is extremely motivated and would love to have a chance to show what he can still do.

"He doesn't look or play like a 37-year-old guy. Joe feels young and plays with a lot of enthusiasm. All he needs is a shot."

Horn has been selected to four Pro Bowls, but was out of football last season.

During the 2007 season, Horn caught 27 passes for 243 yards and one touchdown for the Atlanta Falcons.

For his career, Horn has registered 603 receptions for 8,744 yards and 58 touchdowns. Horn played for Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson in Atlanta when Jackson was the Falcons' offensive coordinator.

"Hue knows Joe very well, so that could help," Vitolo said. "It always helps to have some kind of connection to a team."


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