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OWINGS MILLS — In ornate, cursive letters tattooed onto his thick neck, Willis McGahee wears a note of optimism. A few inches below the Baltimore Ravens running backâ€™s left ear, a tattoo reads: â€œGuess Whoâ€™s Back.â€
Now that McGahee is getting acclimated to the Ravens during his first minicamp with the team since being acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills in March, heâ€™s intent on capitalizing on a fresh start.
â€œIâ€™m motivated, Iâ€™ve got to step my game up,â€ said McGahee, whom Buffalo traded to Baltimore for two third-round draft picks and a seventh-round selection. â€œMy teammates are expecting a lot of me. Iâ€™m going to go out there and dish it out. Hopefully, we can all work together and make that run we want.â€
In Buffalo, McGahee became a controversial figure because of his comments in a Penthouse magazine interview where he suggested that the Bills should move to Toronto along with a pair of paternity suits and loud whispers about his work ethic and knowledge of the offense.
Reunited with former University of Miami teammate Ed Reed, who occupies the locker stall next to him, and rewarded with a contract with a maximum value of $40.12 million, McGahee has an altogether different mindset here.
â€œOh man, the vibe in the air is totally different,â€ McGahee said. â€œThese guys know what they want and the coaches treat you like men. Everybody is making sure everybody is on top of their game.
â€œWeâ€™re not messing around. When somebody messes up, you might laugh here or there. Jokes aside, we help each other out.â€
McGahee looked smooth Thursday running the football and catching passes out of the backfield from quarterback Steve McNair. The voluntary minicamp ends today.
Based on first impressions, McGahee seems to be a lot more popular in Baltimore than he was toward the end of his Buffalo tenure.
â€œI think heâ€™s going to be a great addition to the team,â€ McNair said. â€œLooking at him and how heâ€™s getting a feel for this offense, heâ€™s not only going to help us in the running game, but also the passing game. If you give him the ball at five yards, heâ€™ll get you 10 out of it.â€
Although his missteps werenâ€™t obvious, McGahee acknowledged making a few technical mistakes. McGahee has to learn quickly, a point repeated loudly and clearly to him by Ravens coach Brian Billick.
â€œI feel like a rookie all over again,â€ McGahee said â€œEverybody messes up. I expect myself to mess up. .. Working together, weâ€™re like breaking the seal right now.â€
McGahee, who has made a sport out of bashing Buffalo since the trade while later backing off an inflammatory statement about the upstate New York cityâ€™s lack of night life, seems intent on writing a new chapter in his life.
â€œI have nothing to prove to Buffalo,â€ he said. â€œIt was fun while it lasted, but thatâ€™s behind me right now. Itâ€™s all in the past. Iâ€™m on a new team. Iâ€™ve got bigger and better things to worry about.â€
NOTES: Return specialist B.J. Sams, who was acquitted Tuesday in his DUI trial, practiced and showed no ill effects from a surgically repaired fractured ankle. â€œIâ€™m not 100 percent, but Iâ€™m feeling really good,â€ Sams said. â€œIâ€™m definitely glad to be back with my teammates now that the burden is lifted off of me.â€ â€¦ Among the veterans not attending practice: offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, Reed, cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, defensive end Trevor Pryce, nose guard Kelly Gregg, center Mike Flynn and running back Mike Anderson. â€œThose that aren’t here, I’m very comfortable knowing what they’re going to be able to do when they get here,â€ Billick said. â€¦ Second-year cornerback David Pittman looked sharp in single coverageâ€¦ Evan Oglesby wasnâ€™t nearly as adept, getting repeatedly burnt by wideout Mark Clayton. That prompted secondary coach Dennis Thurman to scold him: â€œCâ€™mon, thatâ€™s twice.â€ â€¦ Besides Sams, several players who underwent surgeries practiced, including: fullback Justin Green (knee), defensive tackle Justin Bannan (toe) and running back Musa Smith (neck). Linebacker Dan Cody, whose left knee injury didnâ€™t require surgery, practiced without incident. â€¦ The Ravens officially signed undrafted free agent quarterback Cullen Finnerty (Grand Valley State), along with safety Bobby Blackshire (Tulsa), a 6-foot-1, 196-pound All-Conference USA selection.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland