OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee has done a commendable job of keeping his frustrations, if they exist, to himself due to his drastically reduced playing time.
The closest that the former Pro Bowl runner has come to taking issue with being phased out of the offense was reminding reporters this week that the Ravens won the first three games of the season as he scored seven touchdowns.
“I got it in me,” he said. “Don’t forget.”
The disappearance of McGahee as far as being a vital part of the offense has coincided with the rise of starting running back Ray Rice, one of the top all-purpose threats in the league.
McGahee has rushed for just 201 yards on 47 carries, less than half the workload of Rice.
Since producing games of 44, 79 and 67 rushing yards to begin the season, McGahee has rushed for 11, minus-two yards, three, minus-one and zero yards over the past five games.
After carrying the football 32 times during the first three games, McGahee has been limited to a total of 15 carries over the past five weeks.
“I’m cool, man,” McGahee said. “I look at it as I’m healthy this year. I have no injuries. My body’s in good shape. You’ve got to turn a negative into a positive.”
Meanwhile, Rice has rushed for 573 yards and five touchdowns on 108 carries while leading the team in receptions with 46 catches for 436 yards and one score.
For the first time this season, McGahee had no touches during a 17-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Ray is doing a great job,” McGahee said. “He gets hot in the game. As long as he stays hot, keep running the ball.”
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron reiterated that the lack of snaps overall have played a role in McGahee’s reduced role.
“Ray Rice is playing so well,” he said. “If Ray were playing poorly, then obviously Willis would play more. We would like to get Willis in there for two series in the first half.
“It’s been a snap issue more than anything. It’s been a Ray Rice level of play issue as well. We like all our backs, and the more snaps we have, the more they all are going to play.”
Despite his lack of involvement, McGahee hasn’t let it affect his positive mindset.
“You grow up, you get older and wiser,” McGahee said. “I’m not out there getting beat up. That’s the main thing.”
Does he expect to be back next season?
“I would hope so, but it’s a business,” he said. “You don’t know how it’s going to go.”
INJURY UPDATE: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (sprained right ankle) and cornerback Fabian Washington (left thigh contusion) returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis.
“They’ve been out there running around, they’ve been working,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “That’s the trainer’s deal. He comes and tells me each day that they’re doing better, they’re doing fine, and I just don’t know what it will be like until game time.”
Meanwhile, middle linebacker Ray Lewis missed his second practice in a row due to a foot injury. He doesn’t seem to be limping.
Cornerback Chris Carr and rookie linebacker Dannell Ellerbe missed practice again due to illness.
Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (neck) was upgraded to full participation after being limited Thursday.
The following players participated on a full-time basis: safeties Ed Reed (right wrist) and Haruki Nakamura (chest), linebacker Jarret Johnson (left shoulder), tight end Todd Heap (ankle) and wide receiver Kelley Washington (back).
For the Browns, running back Jamal Lewis (ankle), linebacker David Bowens (knee), defensive end Kenyon Coleman (groin), offensive guard Rex Hadnot (knee) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (hamstring) were limited again.
Punter Dave Zastudil (right knee) was downgraded to limited work.
Also limited: tight ends Michael Gaines (knee) and Steve Heiden (knee).
Wide receiver Chansi Stuckey (calf) didn’t practice.
Center Alex Mack (wrist), center Hank Fraley (knee), defensive lineman Coye Francies (knee) and tight end Robert Royal (finger) participated fully.
QUICK HITS: The Ravens’ interior line has its work cut out for it, literally having to do some heavy lifting against gargantuan Browns nose guard Shaun "Big Baby" Rogers. "Leverage is important in any block, no matter who you’re going against," offensive guard Ben Grubbs said. "That’s definitely true against Shaun Rogers. As big and powerful and explosive as he is, you need to use quickness and leverage to beat him." … Quarterback Joe Flacco has no intentions of changing his low-key personality. "There’s definitely a time for it, but if I just did it out of nowhere, people would think that wasn’t really real," he said. "I’m not like that. There’s times when I’ll say things to people, and I don’t need to make it known to the public that things are going on. It’s not the way I am. It’s not the way I’m going to be.” … Cameron downplayed the notion that the no-huddle offense could provide a boost to the offense to get out of its string of first-half ruts. “Absolutely, it can,” he said. “The last thing we want to be is a rhythm offense. How hard is it to be a good offense if you get in rhythm? That isn’t hard to do. You’ve got to have an ability to get the job done when a good defense doesn’t allow you to get in rhythm. You can’t use no-huddle offense as some kind of security blanket to solve all your issues of rhythm. I’ve never bought into that. I hope we don’t have to be in rhythm to be a good offense. If that’s the case, then we won’t be a very good offense.” … Mattison reiterated that Reed isn’t being hampered by a nerve impingement of his neck and shoulder. “I think he’s healthy,” Mattison said. “I think he’s a warrior. I think anything he’s doing out there, Ed Reed’s going to go as hard as he can and do whatever he can do to help us win. I don’t think there are any issues that way. Again, that’s a trainer’s deal. Ed Reed’s been a great football player, and he does everything we ask him to do.”