Ravens Notebook: McGahee accepts second-team status, for now

Street Talk Ravens Notebook: McGahee accepts second-team status, for now

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OWINGS MILLS — Relegated to second-team status behind Ray Rice in the Baltimore Ravens’ backfield at this point, veteran running back Willis McGahee seems to have accepted an unfamiliar complementary role.

While McGahee has been sidelined for the majority of the offseason minicamps due to having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this offseason, Rice has thrived with an increased workload and has consistently drawn praise from the coaching staff.

"I don’t mind," McGahee said Tuesday during the Ravens’ passing camp. "Ray has been here the whole offseason. It wouldn’t be right, just coming in and taking over. I respect game.

"Ray has been here the whole offseason and going with the ones when I wasn’t here. Work is work. You’re going to get work whether it’s with the first, second or third."

For McGahee, starting is something he had grown accustomed to as a former Pro Bowl runner who gained 1,207 yards and scored seven touchdowns during his first season in Baltimore two years ago following a trade from the Buffalo Bills.

"I know what I can do," said McGahee, who’s playing under a seven-year, $40.12 million contract. "I know I can turn the light switch on when I need to. I’m ready to turn it on."

However, McGahee was hampered by injuries to his knee, ribs and eyes last season as he rushed for a career-low 671 yards.

Now, McGahee’s health is improving and he expects to be fully recovered by training camp.

"I don’t feel anything in my knee," McGahee said. "I’m just getting it stronger and ready to break long runs and make great blocks. … Everything is coming along. I’m right where I want to be. As long as I’m ready for the season opener, that’s all I’m worried about. I’ll be cleared for training camp, no doubt."

McGahee said that his relationship with the coaching staff has improved after being criticized last season for admittedly not showing up to training camp in optimum condition and not being up to speed on the playbook at first after skipping the majority of the installation periods during last year’s minicamps.

"I’m okay with everybody," McGahee said. "I ain’t never said I’m the best player to be interacting with coaches. That’s just how it is with me, but I have no hard feelings against them and I don’t think they have any hard feelings against me."

MASON UPDATE: Veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason is still unsure if he’ll be ready for training camp as he recovers from shoulder surgery to repair a damaged labrum and scapula.

Mason is participating in drills, but isn’t cleared for contact yet.

"You never know with Superman," Mason said. "I can come out with the cape and it could be the first day or the second week. You never know, but I’m optimistic that when it’s time to play, I’ll be able to play whenever it is. I’ll be able to play when we play Kansas City."

The Ravens open the season Sept. 13 at M&T Bank Stadium against the Chiefs.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence recently that Mason, the Ravens’ leading receiver for three of the past four seasons, would take part in most of, if not all of, training camp.

Mason, who’s entering the final year of his contract and has requested an extension, remains conservative in his outlook for camp.

"I still don’t know if I’m going to be ready," he said. "It still bothers me, but I’m trying to condition my body and myself to get over it, get past it and try to get back on the field as soon as I can. If I can’t, then I’m not going to press the issue."

SYPNIEWSKI UPDATE: Tight end Quinn Sypniewski remains hopeful that he’ll be able to play this season despite undergoing another surgery last month to reattach the bone in his surgically-repaired left knee.

Sypniewski was sidelined for all of last season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament off the bone and fracturing the bone that attached to the ligament. This was his second surgery stemming from the original injury suffered a year ago during an awkward minicamp collision with outside linebacker Antwan Barnes.

"They expect me to play this season," said Sypniewski, who’s getting around on crutches. "Whether or not it’s training camp, I don’t know. They want to make sure that everything is completely taken care of and ready to go before I get back out there. I definitely expect to play this season.

"It’s a matter of how much time I get to prepare. I may not have the luxury of an entire camp. I may have to play my way into shape. It is what it is. It sucks. The timing of it is bad. I wish they could have found it earlier."

Sypniewski said that he sought several different medical opinions before deciding to have his second knee surgery.

"They just sutured the bone down and clamped it down with a fishing line or whatever," Sypniewski said. "It’s attached now and they expect everything should be good to go.

"They shaved down the bone, so there was a good surface to reattach it. I always had some pain and they saw it and thought it might resolve itself on its own, but it never did."

 
QUICK HITS: Pro Bowl fullback Le’Ron McClain, the team’s leading rusher last season, is carrying some excess poundage. Last season, McClain reported to training camp at 278 pounds and flunked the team’s conditioning test before dieting and exercising his way down to 260 pounds. Although McClain looks heavier than usual, Harbaugh stressed that McClain is in better shape than he looks and the team isn’t concerned. "He’s worked really hard," Harbaugh said. "He’s probably 10 or 12 pounds heavier than he’ll be when we play, but he’s also in great shape. So, although he’s carrying a lot of weight, cardiovascular and strength-wise, he’s in really good shape. Now, he’s got to maintain that and build on that, take the weight off for training camp and he should be ready to go, but I admire the way he’s worked this year." …
 
In addition to unsigned franchise player Terrell Suggs, the following starters weren’t at the voluntary practice: free safety Ed Reed, middle linebacker Ray Lewis and wide receiver Mark Clayton. … Several players were limited during practice, including: offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (strained pectoral), cornerback Chris Carr (shoulder surgery), tight end L.J. Smith (sports hernia), linebacker Jason Phillips (torn meniscus) and defensive lineman Kelly Talavou (shoulder surgery). … Safety Tom Zbikowski and undrafted rookie cornerback K.J. Gerard intercepted two passes apiece. … Wide receiver Marcus Smith caught a long touchdown pass from backup quarterback Troy Smith. … Cornerback Fabian Washington (shoulder and neck surgeries) is no longer wearing a red jersey as well as Barnes (pectoral surgery), meaning they’re fully cleared for practice. …
 
The Ravens spent this week preparing game plans for AFC North opponents, including the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday, the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday and are going to work on getting ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers today. The defending Super Bowl champion Steelers defeated the Ravens three times last season, including an AFC championship game victory … The Ravens stocked a large pond at their practice facility with large-mouth bass, small-mouth bass, striped bass and catfish for a fishing tournament and held a barbecue after practice Tuesday. Harbaugh indicated that the team was exercising a "catch-and-release" policy in a departure from what he usually stresses when it comes to holding onto the football. "We’ve done some catch and release out here as a matter of fact," Harbaugh joked.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson

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