McGahee ahead of schedule, but a long way off

It's a sight the Buffalo Bills have already gotten used to, rookie running back Willis McGahee - the team's first-round draft pick - dressed in shorts and a helmet and watching from the sidelines.

It's a sight the Buffalo Bills have already gotten used to, rookie running back Willis McGahee - the team's first-round draft pick - dressed in shorts and a helmet and watching from the sidelines.
 
The former University of Miami star, rehabilitating a major knee injury suffered in last January's national title game, wasn't able to partake in drills during offseason organized team activities that recently concluded.
 
And as expected, he won't be partaking in any drills when training camp opens July 23 at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y.
 
Team officials, in fact, are dropping hints that it's likely McGahee will open the season on the physically unable to perform list, making him unavailable for the 2003 season until Week 10 when there is a window of time he could be activated.
 
McGahee, who tore three major ligaments, hasn't incurred any setbacks and can lightly jog, take handoffs and catch passes. But cutting hard on a dime and getting hit - in other words, playing football - is still a far ways off.
 
"I'm taking it easy now, actually, not trying to push it," McGahee said. "We've slowed up a little bit, but everything is going well."
 
McGahee has returned home to Miami where he will continue the rehabbing process with his personal trainers and medical team. The Bills will monitor his progress by phone and visits by their trainers.
  
"He's on a good pace," coach Gregg Williams said. "He's done very well here and when he gets away and does his workouts before he comes to camp, there's no doubt he'll keep working hard. We're really pleased with his progress."
  
The Bills have learned that McGahee's reputation as a vigilant worker is well deserved. Many times they've had to tell him not to push things and risk a setback.
  
"He's done well and he's ahead (of schedule)," said general manager Tom Donahoe, the man whose reputation is on the line should the controversial selection of McGahee fail to pan out. "But Willis can get a little frisky and you don't want him to get too aggressive right now."
 
Donahoe said there is no updated timetable on when McGahee will be ready to play. It still might not be until 2004.
 
"We're not putting a date on it," he said. "It's up to how the doctors feel and the progress Willis makes."
 
The Bills have been in contact with agent Drew Rosenhaus and serious contract talks will start soon. It's believed that the medical progress of McGahee will factor into the kind of signing bonus he receives.
 
"It's too early to predict problems. We'll see what happens," Donahoe said.
 
While he couldn't partake in drills, McGahee's time in Buffalo since the April draft did allow him the opportunity to meet his new teammates and start digesting the Bills' playbook.
 
"It was tough at first but I got to know everyone pretty well," he said. "Right now, I'm learning and having fun with it."

 


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