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OWINGS MILLS — Delivering crisp spirals on the move and getting accustomed to handing the football off to Willis McGahee, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair didn’t look or behave like a man distracted by his pending driving under the influence trial.
McNair was arrested May 9 in Nashville, Tenn., on a misdemeanor offense commonly referred to as DUI consent. It’s a Tennessee ordinance that prohibits a vehicle owner from knowingly allowing someone to drive their automobile while intoxicated.
During the Ravens’ voluntary minicamp Thursday, the three-time Pro Bowl passer made a statement with his words and actions that he’s focused strictly on football. McNair, 34, looked noticeably fitter than usual, appearing to be several pounds lighter than the end of last season.
"What happened in Tennessee is left in Tennessee," McNair said in a twist on the famous phrase about Las Vegas. “My lawyer is going to deal with that. Right now, my main focus is coming out here, getting chemistry and getting the things I need to get done in preparation for training camp.”
McNair, whose brother-in-law, Jamie Cartwright was driving his 2003 Dodge silver pickup truck and was charged with DUI, has a pretrial settlement conference scheduled for May 30. Cartwright had a strong “odor of alcohol” with “red, glassy eyes,” failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a Breathalyzer exam, according to law enforcement officials.
"We’re going to let the legal process handle it,” McNair said. “It’s unfortunate but things happen. I just got to go through it. But at the same time, it’s not going to distract me from helping this team get to where we need to be."
McNair’s lawyer, Roger May, emphasized that McNair’s case could be affected heavily by the outcome of his brother-in-law’s trial. The law McNair was charged under doesn’t consider whether he was drinking, centering primarily on whether the driver was impaired.
“I believe that if Mr. Cartwright’s case is resolved favorably, then there’s a good chance that Mr. McNair’s case could just be dismissed,” May said.
Despite the brewing legal situation, McNair reiterated that he’s happy about the change in his personal circumstances from a year ago.
McNair was able to practice with the Ravens nearly a month earlier than last year when he was acquired in a June trade from the Tennessee Titans for a fourth-round draft pick and underwent a crash course in the playbook.
This change in timing could pay dividends one season removed from McNair leading the Ravens to an AFC North title and a franchise-best 13-3 campaign.
“I think it can help me out a lot,” McNair said. “For one, it can give me a better understanding of what Brian Billick wants out of this offense and what I can do in this offense. We couldn’t put enough things in last year because of the limited time we had of me coming in.
“This year because we’re starting early, I think we can put some things in that I can really and truly go out there and do with my eyes closed. That’s going to enhance us to execute and be consistent throughout the whole year and not have this stalemate in the middle of the season or end of the season. .. This is when you get better, during the offseason."
McNair completed 63 percent of his passes last season for 3,050 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for an 82.5 quarterback rating. And the Ravens, who gave McNair a contract with a maximum value of $32 million last year, are banking on getting even more out of their investment this season.
“Excellent, excellent,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said when asked about McNair. “He’s got a great attitude about what he wants to get done. He looks like he’s in great shape. He’s throwing the ball fairly well for just getting started.”
Compared to his first minicamp a year ago where McNair was understandably rusty and erratic due to the Titans locking him out of their training facility because of a contract dispute, his accuracy and timing were much better. Plus, his arm strength seems to have benefited from some rest.
Heading into his 13th NFL season, McNair, didn’t have to undergo any surgeries, which is usually his offseason tradition.
“I’m in good shape,” he said. “As you get older in this league, you need to get a jump on these young guys. I prepared myself. My arm is in good shape and I’m ready to go now.”
McNair said he’s extremely motivated because of how last season ended with a 15-6 AFC divisional playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts where he threw two costly interceptions, including one in the red zone while trying to connect with tight end Todd Heap.
“It’s bitter for me because of the outcome,” McNair said. “I look back at the film and evaluate myself and I didn’t do enough making plays as a quarterback, as the leader of this team, to go out and beat the Indianapolis Colts. We don’t make mistakes on purpose, but you have to learn from it."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland

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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. 

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