OWINGS MILLS – As running back Willis McGahee packed his suitcase in the locker room following a 20-3 AFC divisional playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, he wasn’t certain whether it was his last game playing for the Baltimore Ravens.
Signed to a seven-year, $40.12 million contract following a trade from the Buffalo Bills three years ago that included $15 million in guaranteed money, McGahee is due a $3.6 million salary next season.
Even if this does turn out to be an uncapped year if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t brokered, it’s still a lot of money to pay a backup running back with Pro Bowl selection Ray Rice entrenched as the starter.
Whatever happens, McGahee said he’s unconcerned about his future after tying a franchise record by scoring14 touchdowns in a reserve role.
“No doubt about it, I still have a lot left in my tank,” McGahee said. “Right now, I’ll let them handle it when the time comes.
“Man, I ain’t even worried about it right now to tell you the truth. If I do, I do. If I don’t, I don’t. It is what it is. Who knows what the future holds for me? Sky’s the limit.”
McGahee predicted that the roster will undergo some changes.
That could include potential retirements from wide receiver Derrick Mason and free safety Ed Reed. Reed said it’s a “50-50” proposition whether he continues to play due to a nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder that has hampered him for the past two years.
“I don’t think we have a long way to go,” McGahee said. “We’re right there. It’s just the fact that we won’t have the same players next year. Things are going to change.”
One year removed losing in the AFC championship game to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens are faced with another offseason of tinkering with the parts of the team to try to take the next step forward.
“You look at the whole big picture, obviously we’re not where we want to be right now,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We want to be to the point as a football team where we can win a divisional playoff game, we can win the AFC championship game and we can win the Super Bowl. We tried like crazy to be good enough to do that.
“But we’re not good enough yet. We’ve got to find a way to make our team better, and that’s what we do in the offseason. You do the best job you can to become a better team next year.”
As painful as it was to lose for the eighth consecutive time to the Colts, cornerback Domonique Foxworth expressed confidence that the setback could be used as a building block.
“Definitely, you can learn something from each loss,” he said. “The guys that are going to be back next year, I think we’ll be one year better, one year smarter and this experience definitely won’t hurt us.
“It’s not easy to feel that way right now coming off of a loss, but the big picture is it’s something we can build on like the rest of the losses this year.”
Running back Ray Rice had a rough game, losing a fumble and dropping a pass that was intercepted.
Going forward, he thinks the Ravens have a bright future.
“We will learn from this,” he said. “We have a great group of guys. We overcame a lot this year. We will just look forward to the offseason. You will never see us quit.
“You will never see me quit. It’s just one of those games where things didn’t go our way. We will learn from this and that’s what the offseason is for.”
UNCERTAIN STATUS: Depending upon the outcome of the talks between the players’ union and the NFL management council, wide receivers Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams will either be restricted or unrestricted free agents.
Talks reportedly haven’t gone well so far, so an uncapped year and many players being restricted and likely retained by their current teams is a likely scenario.
“I haven’t even thought about it, but obviously now that has to be on my mind,” Clayton said. “It’s no big deal to me. I just enjoy playing, just enjoy the opportunity. It’s precious to share a locker with the guys that are in this locker room.
“I’m very grateful for it, but what comes from it, what the future holds, I don’t know. I just trust God that everything will be alright. There’s nothing to worry about. Life will unfold like it’s supposed to.”
QUICK HITS: Nickel back Corey Ivy took issue with the pass interference penalty called on him that nullified Reed’s interception in the third quarter. “Hey, man, you know how it is,” he said. “When you play against a team like the Colts, you play against more than the Colts. It was a call that they made. I got to live with it.” Harbaugh agreed with Ivy’s assessment. “I thought he played it well,” Harbaugh said. … Harbaugh also disagreed with middle linebacker Ray Lewis’ helmet-to-helmet hit on a “defenseless player.” Lewis hit wide receiver Austin Collie to prevent a potential touchdown catch in the second quarter. “I thought it was a heck of a football play,” Harbaugh said. … While the Ravens went 0 for 2 in the red zone, the Colts converted 2 of their 3 red-zone opportunities. The Ravens committed seven penalties for 64 yards while the Colts were flagged four times for 25 yards. And the Colts owned a time of possession advantage of 33 minutes and 58 seconds to the Ravens 26 minutes and two seconds. … Offensive tackle Jared Gaither was flagged once for a false start and another time for holding during the same third-quarter drive. “I just got to focus better,” he said. “It’s all on me.” … Harbaugh took issue with the suggestion that the Ravens were demoralized by the Colts’ two touchdowns to close out the first half. “In what sense? We kept playing hard,” he said. “We didn’t deflate in the game. We came out and fought for the rest of the game. So, I wouldn’t say the wind came out of our sails.” … Rice fumbled when defensive end Raheem Brock collided with the football with his helmet and linebacker Clint Session recovered. “It was a great play by him,” Rice said. “I didn’t see him. I’m making guys miss. I had the ball high and tight and he just got a good helmet on the football.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.