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OWINGS MILLS — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair has apparently regained all of his faculties following a concussion and declared himself fit to start Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
It was McNairâ€™s first full workout under center Wednesday since suffering a Grade 2 concussion and a sprained neck in a 23-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers. After sitting out of Sundayâ€™s practice and being limited during Mondayâ€™s workout, McNair practiced without incident as the Ravens began installing their game plan.
â€œI think today was the key to go out and execute the offense without any confusion, without any pause, without any hesitation,â€ said McNair, who was listed as questionable on the injury report. â€œIâ€™ve done that. I think itâ€™s fair to say Iâ€™m healthy and ready to go.
â€œI felt better than I have in a long time. I got the brains back working again. I felt fresh, felt rejuvenated. I worked out as hard as I could, tried to overload my brain and see if itâ€™s going to have a reaction.â€
Although McNair has a significant medical history, he described this as the first concussion of his career. He did incur a mild concussion in 2002 while with the Tennessee Titans, but didnâ€™t miss a game.
â€œHe seemed fresh, ready to go,â€ tight end Todd Heap said. â€œYou couldnâ€™t tell anything about a concussion or anything. Basically, itâ€™s like the normal Steve out there.â€
Under the direction of a new offensive coordinator following Jim Fasselâ€™s dismissal and Ravens coach Brian Billick installing himself to call the plays, McNair is looking to dramatically improve a statistically-challenged offense. Baltimore (4-2) ranks 28th in the NFL in total offense and is averaging only 18.3 points per game to rank 22nd overall.
Although McNair has engineered a pair of last-minute comeback victories, the three-time Pro Bowl passer has struggled for the most part. He has thrown seven interceptions and five touchdowns for a 64.1 passer rating that ranks him 30th among NFL starters.
McNair acknowledged that heâ€™s been pressing lately, throwing four interceptions in his past 38 throws over a two-game losing streak. He has three interceptions in his last dozen attempts dating back to the fourth quarter of a 13-3 loss to the Denver Broncos, completing 2 of 4 passes for one interception prior to getting hurt against Carolina.
â€œIt all starts with me,â€ McNair said. â€œI handle the ball 99 percent of the time during the course of the game. I have to make sure that Iâ€™m not pressing myself, trying to do too much and give the other 10 guys a chance to make plays.
â€œI havenâ€™t done that. Iâ€™ve tried to do too much. I have to relax and play football. Last week was a good week to sit back and evaluate myself and see what I need to do to improve the offense.â€
With Billick assuming play-calling duties full-time for the first time since his arrival in Baltimore in 1999, several players said that the offense had been streamlined and that individual plays are discussed in greater detail.
â€œItâ€™s a great change, and I think a lot of the players are into it,â€ said McNair, who said he wouldn’t have medically been able to play last week if Baltimore hadn’t had a bye. â€œWeâ€™ve got to believe in it and go out and execute it. I think weâ€™ve got some stuff in that we can go out and get myself in a rhythm, get this offense in a rhythm.
â€œThe situation weâ€™re in now weâ€™ve got to get better offensively. Weâ€™ve got too many good athletes to be in the position weâ€™re in.â€
McNair noted that the communication between Billick and himself has to evolve and improve markedly now that Billick is acting in a dual capacity as head coach and coordinator.
â€œWe have to have a lot better relationship than we did in the past, we had a good relationship in the past, but it has to be better now that heâ€™s taken over the play-calling,â€ McNair said. â€œI have an opportunity to give my input on what I like during the week. If I donâ€™t like it, weâ€™ll talk about it. He decides whether to keep it in or not.â€
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.