In an extremely candid interview Thursday, Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee acknowledged the painful reality of his unproductive season punctuated by a shaky performance during a 24-10 win over the Washington Redskins. McGahee seemed sad about the situation.
"I’m back to normal, but I played like doo-doo," McGahee said. "It’s nothing to be happy about it, just have to do better this game."
McGahee rushed for just 32 yards on 11 carries against the Redskins, losing a fumble, dropping a pass and bobbling a pitch that went out of bounds.
He missed practice Wednesday because of a family issue, but returned to work Thursday and remains hopeful that he can turn things around.
When asked if the coaching staff still believes in him, McGahee replied: "To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t. I haven’t had the best season. Right now, Le’Ron [McClain] and Ray [Rice] are the hot guys. You stick with your guns."
Since rushing for a season-high 112 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns against the Houston Texans he has gained just 58 yards over the past four games. His longest run was seven yards during that period, and he was benched against the Cincinnati Bengals.
McGahee has rushed for just 521 yards and five touchdowns with a 3.4 average on 152 carries. He is on target to post career lows for rushing yards, rushing average and carries one year removed from leading Baltimore with 1,207 rushing yards.
His role has continued to decline as the Ravens have emphasized a committee approach to the running game.
"It’s still going to be running back by committee, we like that," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "I think it’s good for us from a game-plan standpoint. We’re not going to overreact if a guy plays really well, and give this guy the stamp as the starter or a guy doesn’t play well and he’s not going to play. Every guy has a rough game every now and then, and we’re going to need every one of these guys down the stretch."
McGahee has dealt with injuries to his eyes ribs and ankle and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in August following an offseason where he rarely attended workouts and minicamps.
"I’m not making any excuses," McGahee said. "I made a decision to go out there and play, and I haven’t been performing the way I can."
McGahee dismissed the notion that he’s simply one long run away from shaking out of his slump.
"I’m looking for a whole complete season, not just one carry," he said.
Although it would be expensive for the Ravens to part ways with McGahee after the season, he knows that this year has raised doubts about his future status with the organization.
"You can’t pout," McGahee said. "You look at the last performance I had, it wasn’t good. You have to deal with your medicine."
TRAINING ROOM: Veteran kicker Matt Stover didn’t practice for the second day in a row due to a sprained right ankle that has noticeable bruising, but insisted he would play Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It’s pretty bad, but you know I’m not missing this one," Stover said.
Added special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg: "With his history, I would expect him to be out there Sunday kicking field goals. I know this is certainly not a game that he wants to miss, so he’s doing everything he can to get healthy and get ready to go."
Meanwhile, wide receiver Derrick Mason (dislocated left shoulder) and rookie running back Ray Rice (left shin bruise) have yet to practice this week.
Mason is expected to play, but Rice is regarded as more of a question mark.
Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (right shoulder sprain) was downgraded to not practicing after participating on a limited basis Wednesday.
Wide receivers Mark Clayton (knee) and Yamon Figurs (bruised left knee) and safeties Jim Leonhard (illness) and Reed (hamstring) practiced after being held out Wednesday. Reed, Clayton and Figurs were limited.
Wide receiver Marcus Maxwell (hip) didn’t practice, and rookie guard David Hale (left ankle) was limited again.
PRO BOWL LEADERS: Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, free safety Ed Reed, fullback Le’Ron McClain and special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo finished atop the fan balloting for the Pro Bowl.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs finished fifth in the voting for the AFC squad.
The fans’ votes count for one-third of the Pro Bowl voting with NFL players and coaches counting for the remainder of the votes, and are scheduled to vote over the next few days. The rosters will be announced Tuesday by the league.
QUICK HITS: Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (knee) didn’t practice after participating fully the previous day. Defensive end Brett Keisel (knee) and offensive tackle Marvel Smith (back) didn’t practice. Strong safety Troy Polamalu (calf) was limited after not practicing Wednesday. … Wide receiver Hines Ward, running back Willie Parker, defensive end Aaron Smith and cornerback Deshea Townsend returned to practice after being given Wednesday off. … Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan noted how difficult it is to bring down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "Well, we’ve got to find a way to tackle him," he said. "I think the biggest thing is he makes huge plays. Big Ben will just sit back and say, ‘I’ll take care of the hot myself, I’ll make the guy miss and then I’ve got more time to throw.’ That’s what he’s burned us on in the past." … New running back Jalen Parmale has been given a crash course in the Ravens’ offense. "Absolutely," Cameron said. "You definitely can’t have too many good running backs."