Willis McGahee approaches organized team activities (“OTA’s”) with the same enthusiasm that most of us over 40 approach a prostate exam. It’s not fun but it has to be done, although McGahee might think otherwise.
Now some might be quick to remind us that most of the OTA’s are voluntary. And while that is true voluntary participation does demonstrate a level of commitment to the team that sends a message to management, the coaches and a player’s teammates.
WHAT’S OUR NAME?
Did you hear that Willis?
Apparently not – McGahee opted out of this week’s OTA’s.
While a player of Ray Lewis’ ilk participates in OTA’s McGahee chooses not to. Sure he had some sort of arthroscopic procedure to clean up either his knee or his ankle (McGahee denies it’s his ankle) and that is why he stood on the sidelines as a spectator during the mandatory mini-camp. Yet the timing of the procedure is a bit suspicious don’t you think? Why not get it done earlier so that he could be ready for these camps?
Maybe he just doesn’t want to be ready.
Maybe he wants an excuse to sit out.
Without question McGahee is an interesting character. It’s hard to label him a malcontent. He doesn’t appear bitter. If anything when approached he seems a bit sheepish and shy in a child-like way. He doesn’t bad mouth his coach or the organization yet he often appears uninspired, like his play during most of the 2008 season.
When Cam Cameron arrived on the scene, he boldly predicted that McGahee could be a 20+ touchdown player given his all-around game. Visions of Ladainian Tomlinson danced in Cameron’s head. Now visions of McGahee just give Cameron a headache.
How do the Ravens get to this guy?
Why can’t his mates from the “U” inspire him?
Is McGahee un-inspirable?
Dial the clock back to his horrific knee injury suffered in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Many thought he would never play again.
Just prior to that game, McGahee’s family took out a loan for $20,000 to buy an insurance premium that would protect the star running back in the event of injury in the Fiesta Bowl. Had McGahee never played again, the policy would have paid $2.5 million.
But McGahee showed grit, determination and heart while working through the injury and returning to the field. It was a character statement that most thought would help him become an outstanding professional.
Where is that Willis McGahee now?
Back in 2007 in Week 7, the Ravens took a 4-2 record into Buffalo to face the (1-4) Bills. The playing conditions were ideal for an October northwestern New York afternoon – sunny, 66 degrees with 16 mph winds.
The Ravens fell behind at halftime 9-0 but early in the second quarter, McGahee broke off a 46 yard run for a score to make it 9-7. But the Bills reeled off 10 unanswered points to take a 19-7 lead by the end of the third quarter.
Struggling by air the team needed McGahee to step up again.
Instead, McGahee stepped out.
The team’s leading rusher went into the locker room to get intravenous fluids to temper his dehydration. Keep in mind now the conditions were ideal and at that time McGahee had carried the ball only 17 times in the seventh game of the season. McGahee’s replacement Mike Anderson racked up exactly zero yards in three carries while McGahee was administered the good stuff. Upon his return, the former Bill managed minus one yard on 2 carries.
Obviously too little and obviously too late.
The Ravens would drop to 4-3. The would go on to reel off nine straight losses and not win another game that season until the finale against the Steelers who had nothing to play for having secured their playoff seeding.
Rumors have swirled about McGahee’s off the field indulgences. Many suspected that he had been out partying the night before that game in Buffalo and that was the reason he was dehydrated despite perfect playing conditions.
Some still suspect that his affinity for the night life far exceeds his passion for football. Some wonder if there’s any passion for football at all.
This week McGahee doesn’t post for OTA’s while many of the team’s other stars do, some with much more decorated resumes than No. 23. Instead he flies out to Vegas with his recently scoped appendage-to-be- named-later and parties on at Ditch Fridays.
Maybe Willis just wants to ditch football.
And don’t think for a second the Ravens wouldn’t ditch Willis if they could. Underachievers like McGahee are a dime a dozen and they are the polar opposite of the type that Coach John Harbaugh embraces. Unfortunately for Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome the club has $11 million worth of dimes hanging around their collective neck like a gargantuan salary cap noose.
It would be nice if somehow McGahee had an epiphany of sorts, woke up and performed like the player that danced in Cameron’s head. But don’t hold your breath. Your hopes are better off being directed towards players like Ray Rice, Le’Ron McClain, Jalen Parmele and Cedric Peerman.
At least they give a damn!