McGahee Training Hard

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NFL owners voted this week to tighten the rule that a defender could not deliver a blindside blow to anyone's head with a helmet, shoulder or forearm.

That's one year too late, according to Ravens running back Willis McGahee.

The final play of McGahee's season last year ended with such a play.

Late in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark launched his shoulder into McGahee's helmet just as the Raven caught a short pass from Joe Flacco.

McGahee laid motionless on the field for minutes before he was carted off immobilized on a stretcher.

As Ravens fans gasped in shock, McGahee was simply trying to get his bearings.

"I blacked out," he admitted. "When I woke up, they were taking my face mask off, but I was still talking. I don't know how I was doing it. I just remember that my eyes were closed, and I was still talking. The next thing I know, we're in some kind of room in their stadium, and then we were in the ambulance."

A one-night stay in Pittsburgh's UMPC Presbyterian Hospital led to more tests before McGahee was back in the Ravens' locker room the following day.

It was the first concussion McGahee said he's ever experienced, and something he never wants to go through again.

But as frightening as the hit may have been - recent ESPN and NFL Network broadcasts have been playing it non-stop because of the rule change, if anyone hasn't seen it - McGahee believes he has made a full recovery.

"I'm feeling pretty good," he said Thursday at team headquarters in Owings Mills, Md. "The concussion was mild, so there really wasn't anything to worry about. We just had to go through the precautionary procedures.

"This is my first week back training, so things have calmed down. Everything's good for right now."

McGahee knows he has some work to do this offseason.

Hampered by injuries from the start of the Ravens' 2008 campaign, he dealt with knee, eye and ankle injuries.

McGahee even had surgery on his knee in training camp, which slowed the start to his year.

As he battled, McGahee lost his featured back role to Le'Ron McClain, the 260-pound battering ram that led the team with 902 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 212 carries. McClain bested McGahee's 170 attempts, 671 yards and seven scored.

Still, McGahee is committed as ever to coming back strong. He has worked out at the Ravens' training facility all week and plans to participate in the 100 percent voluntary offseason conditioning program periodically this spring and summer.

And a main focus will be that left knee, which required arthroscopic surgery in training camp. McGahee has spent hours with Ravens' trainers rehabbing the injury.

"I've been doing intense leg workouts - just trying to keep the quads strong so the knee won't break down," McGahee said. "That's what I'm working on right now. As far as the knee goes, it's been good because I've been resting ever since the season ended."

While the Ravens will again utilize their three-headed backfield - with McGahee, McClain and the shifty Ray Rice - they could undergo a significant change if fullback Lorenzo Neal isn't re-signed.

Neal, 38, was the primary fullback, but the Ravens let his one-year contract expire. The stalwart veteran recently expressed his desire to return to Baltimore to the Carroll County Times.

"I don't know what the game plan is for the backfield next year, but hopefully, they get Lorenzo back here, because he is a great blocker," McGahee stated. "He'll be in the Hall of Fame some day. His presence alone is a boost for us, and he can help whoever we do have at fullback to follow him."

McGahee has also been asked in the past if he thought he would be on the Ravens' roster next season.

Like our coaches tell us, it's a business," McGahee said the day after losing 23-14 to the Steelers in the conference title game. "Some of us will be here; some of us won't. I can't control that."

There are uncertainties in football. This much McGahee knows.

The only thing he can control is himself, and that's why he is dedicated this offseason to coming back full-strength, returning to the player that made the Pro Bowl in 2007 when he totaled a career-high1,483 total yards from scrimmage.

"If I am [back], I will be here and show my teammates what kind of person I am," he continued. They know what they're going to get from me." **

Have thoughts on the running game for 2009? Let us know what you think! **

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