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Wait-and-See for Willis


Willis McGahee joined his Ravens teammates on the practice field this week, but that doesn't mean he'll be in the lineup for Week 1.

The Pro Bowl running back gave himself a 50-percent chance of playing Sunday in the Ravens' regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals as he continues his recovery from knee surgery.

"It all depends on how the knee feels on Saturday," McGahee. "If it's not reacting good, then it doesn't make any sense to go out there.

"But if it's good, then it's a go."

McGahee had an arthroscopic procedure done Aug. 11 on his right knee after it was found to swell after practices. He did the majority of his rehab running in a pool to take weight off the joint.

McGahee only recently began running on hard ground.

"If it keeps swelling up, then we're going to have a problem," he explained. "If it doesn't, then we know we're good."

Reviews of his initial sessions have been positive.

"I've been running and doing all that since last week," McGahee said. "I could do it today, but you don't want to do it every day. If something is wrong, you aggravate it more."

The Ravens are not without a backup plan, however.

Without McGahee in the lineup, Baltimore has relied heavily on rookie Ray Rice, the second-round draft pick out of Rutgers.

Rice started all four preseason contests and rushed 26 times for 146 yards (a 5.6-yard-per-carry average) and one touchdown. He also hauled in a team-high 10 passes for 44 yards.

The Ravens have also featured the 260-pound Le'Ron McClain as a tailback in a jumbo package behind fullback Lorenzo Neal.

"Willis would be a plus, the way I look at it," said offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. "We're prepared to go in and play well with Ray, given what he's done. With the combination of the line and Lorenzo, we've got a group that's prepared to go in and play well."

Another player that could see time in McGahee's absence is Marcus Mason. He spent training camp with the Washington Redskins before the Ravens signed him to their practice squad. The first-year player out of Youngstown State led the NFL this preseason with 317 rushing yards.

Cameron expressed confidence that McGahee is nearing a full return, even if he still has to knock off some rust.

"I don't know if it's as much that the knee isn't full strength or maybe he just hasn't practiced a lot," said Cameron of the 2003 first-round draft choice. "It's probably a combination of the two, but he's getting better every practice. You can see that he's getting close.

"Whether that'll mean this week or not, I don't know."

Even though he has sat in his position meetings and spent lots of time with Cameron's new playbook, McGahee knows there is no substitute for actually practicing the plays with his teammates - especially on a squad that features five offensive linemen starting at new positions.

"You've got to be out on the field with the guys to get all the timing right and get the blocking schemes," McGahee said. "But you know, that's when you come in and you've got to be a professional.

"You've got to go out there and adjust to whatever type of environment there is."

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