Ravens running back Willis McGahee insisted yesterday that he is a "team player" and that comments he made on a national radio show this week that made him appear self-centered - specifically when he said, "I can't play for nobody else but me" - don't tell the full story.
And yet, when given the opportunity to explain his remarks, he could not hide his disappointment that injuries, particularly knee surgery in training camp, adversely affected his productivity this season, and he was less than exuberant when asked whether the playoffs, and the possibilities they offered, could redeem the year for him.
"My season is over," McGahee said. "[Since] Week 5, I haven't done anything at all. It's not like I'm going to get 1,000 yards, so I'm just playing my role."
Actually, since then, McGahee has had three 100-yard-plus games, including a 77-yard touchdown run that helped the Ravens beat the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 20, but it seemed to be of little consolation.
"Still, it's not like where I want to be at," said McGahee, who had 671 yards and seven touchdowns on 170 carries in the regular season. "I'm used to competing, but with the injuries and whatnot holding me back, I look at it as a loss."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was unfazed by McGahee's radio remarks and dismissed any potential distraction they might create.
"No, no concerns about that at all," Harbaugh said yesterday.
McGahee said he had not been approached by the coaching staff about his comments.
"They know I haven't been like that all year, so it's nothing to take out of proportion," the running back said.
McGahee acknowledged that the practice and playing time he missed in training camp, in addition to the solid performances of converted fullback Le'Ron McClain and rookie Ray Rice at running back, made it inevitable that he would play fewer snaps. Yet, he remained steadfast that he was disappointed with his year even when reminded that the playoffs represented a second season.
"See, I'm talking about my season, I'm not talking about the team's season," McGahee said. "I'm talking about my season as an individual. That's what I'm meaning: My season is over with."
But surely a Super Bowl ring would make up for the personal disappointment, wouldn't it?
Rather than offer a yes or no, McGahee told a story from his days at the University of Miami.
"This is like when I was in college, that year  I got hurt and we won the Rose Bowl" over Nebraska, McGahee said. "I was backing up [Clinton] Portis, and I got hurt. I had an MCL [injury to his knee] and I missed a couple of games, and then I came back and started in the Rose Bowl. I felt like I really didn't contribute to that season. Even though I started in the Rose Bowl and we won, Clinton Portis had [more than 100 yards]. I felt like I didn't do anything. That's just me. So that's how I look at it."
However, in the last two regular-season games, both must-wins for the Ravens, McGahee made key contributions, including the 77-yarder against the Cowboys and a 13-yard touchdown run against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"When my number is called, I'm going to go ahead and play," McGahee said. "But if it's not, I can't do nothing about it."
And the remark about playing for himself rather than someone else was made in reference to suggested adjustments in his running style, he explained, and was not about motivation or commitment to his teammates.
"If I wasn't a team player," he said. "I would have shut it down in the middle of the season from the knee surgery and all that."
There is at least one thing that could salvage McGahee's personal view of his season - being the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.
"Now that's a different story," he said, brightening at the idea. "But we're not there, so we can't get that far."
RAVENS (11-5) @ DOLPHINS (11-5)
TV: Chs. 13, 9 Radio: 1090 AM, 97.9 FM
Line: Ravens by 3 1/2