Not welcome

Bills fans in no mood to forgive McGahee

October 18, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

Only days removed from Willis McGahee's much-anticipated return to Buffalo, all of the swagger has disappeared from the Ravens' running back.

During his 20-question session with reporters yesterday, McGahee repeatedly showed his uneasiness about reliving his acrimonious divorce from the Buffalo Bills, whether it was swaying back and forth nervously, fidgeting with his gloves or carefully measuring his words.

So, what are your feelings toward Buffalo?

"Buffalo is a nice city," he said.

Do you regret saying the Bills should move to Toronto?

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said coyly.

What reaction do you expect from Buffalo fans in your first game back?

"I don't know. I'm not really worried about it."

McGahee should be a bit concerned. He is considered one of the most hated Bills in team history, and fans in western New York have been waiting for his return since he was traded to the Ravens in March for three draft picks (third- and seventh-round selections in 2006 and a third-rounder in 2007).

Many fans likely will be wearing "Willis Is Trash" T-shirts that can be bought online. There's even a rap song about McGahee that goes, "Baltimore got our garbage because Willis is trash."

Other people have expressed their anger by placing videos on YouTube.

On "Farewell Willis McGahee," a fan dressed in a Bills helmet and uniform sets fire to a McGahee poster on his front porch. "Your career just flamed out," the fan says on the video.

On "The Burning of Willis," another fan throws McGahee's Bills jersey on a bonfire, yelling, "Go to hell, Willis."

On "Willis McGahee is a Chump," there's a montage of McGahee photos set to the Godsmack song, "I ------- hate you."

Nothing new

Still, McGahee said he doesn't expect the crowd to be more hostile to him than in other stadiums.

"The stuff I hear on road games ... it's not going to be anything new, to tell you the truth," McGahee said. "That's stuff I hear in any city."

It seems Bills fans feel betrayed because the team took the risk of using a first-round pick on McGahee, who was coming off a major knee injury, only to hear him later cut down the city.

McGahee was quoted in the January issue of Penthouse as saying it would be a "good situation" if the NFL had a team in Toronto. "They should just bring the Buffalo Bills to Toronto," he said. "Case closed."

Two months later, McGahee took another shot at Buffalo in The Sun, complaining about the restaurants and the women there, saying, "It's no big city. You know what I did every day? I came home and played video games."

Buffalo News columnist Bob DiCesare said the trade was like "purging the rot" and wrote in January that McGahee "has worn out his welcome in this town."

McGahee told Buffalo reporters yesterday that he felt misunderstood there.

"Once something leaves your mouth, it never comes back the way you said it," McGahee said. "[The Bills players] know I'm nothing like people seem to say I am. Once you get to know me ... you would be like, `He's really down to earth.' I just be chillin', man."

Playing three seasons for the Bills, McGahee ran for 3,365 yards and scored 24 touchdowns.

But McGahee's comments cut deep in a blue-collar city that has lost half its population during the past 50 years and constantly worries about losing its football team.

"I'm not going to speak for Willis, but I hope [the fans] realize that Willis did do a lot of good things for that team in his time there," said Ravens defensive tackle Justin Bannan, who played in Buffalo from 2002 to 2005.

As an organization, the Bills often were irritated that McGahee regularly trained in the offseason in Miami instead of Buffalo.

Asked yesterday about their relationship, Buffalo coach Dick Jauron insisted there was "no bad blood" between McGahee and the Bills.

"I thought it was really a good deal for everybody concerned," said Jauron, noting the team used the third-round pick in the trade to draft starting quarterback Trent Edwards.

Fresh start

McGahee has used the trade to make a fresh start.

He attended a majority of the Ravens' voluntary workouts and even interacts with fans at his weekly radio show. On the field, he has increased his production since his days in Buffalo, ranking fourth in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (525 rushing yards and 152 receiving yards).

"I think you've seen all the things now that we coveted Willis for," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I just think he's the complete package, and he's shown that. And we're just scratching the surface of what we can do with him."

The Ravens said McGahee wants to put up big numbers against Buffalo, even if he doesn't publicly acknowledge it.

"This one means all the world," left guard Jason Brown said. "He definitely has something to prove. He's going to take a lot of baggage up there. Hopefully, we'll kick butt and leave it out on the field."

McGahee reiterated that this isn't a statement game for him.

"I don't have a chip on my shoulder," said McGahee, who was limited in practice with a knee injury but still plans to play. "They didn't do nothing to me. We're all going to shake hands at the end of the game and go on about our business."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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