McGahee settles into role as backup

Notebook

Running back doesn't mind supporting Rice; Carr, Gooden miss practice

August 08, 2010|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

The seasons have changed, but not Willis McGahee's approach.

The running back led the Ravens last season in scoring with 14 total touchdowns but backed up Ray Rice, who is taking a significant majority of the snaps with the first offense at training camp. And McGahee emphasized that he is not worried about his spot on the depth chart.

"They're going to choose whoever they want to start," McGahee said. "As long as I play, it's all good."

Only 28, McGahee still has the strength and athleticism to be a starting tailback in the NFL. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry and ran for 544 yards last season.

And although Rice -- who rushed for 1,339 yards and finished second in the NFL with 2,041 yards from scrimmage en route to his first Pro Bowl berth -- will likely begin the 2010 season as the offense's starting running back, McGahee will still be counted on to power the rushing attack when he is on the field.

To that end, McGahee said he came into training camp a little heavier than usual. McGahee, whose playing weight is listed at 235 pounds, said he weighed in at 240 pounds -- which did not concern him.

"I feel like when I came in lighter, that's when I was getting the injuries and all of that," McGahee said, referring to 2008, when arthroscopic knee surgery in the preseason was followed by injuries to his eye, ribs, ankle and finally neck because of a helmet-to-helmet blow by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark that knocked him out of the AFC championship game. "I just go with the flow right now. Just keep it up."

Coach John Harbaugh said the added weight did not appear to be a hindrance for McGahee.

"He looks like he's in very good shape," Harbaugh said. "He's carrying really well, and he's running really well. So I'd say that's a plus."

For now, McGahee is content to bide his time and play a supporting role to Rice. But McGahee put to rest any notion that he might launch a Twitter campaign like his backfield mate Le'Ron McClain.

"No," McGahee said with a chuckle. "I'll leave that to Le'Ron."

Injury updates

Cornerback Chris Carr and linebacker Tavares Gooden did not practice Sunday, but neither's absence is considered long-term.

Carr appeared to injure his hamstring during Saturday's practice at M&T Bank Stadium, and his left thigh was heavily wrapped under his shorts.

"He was out doing some things today," Harbaugh said. "So he should be fine."

It's unclear what Gooden's ailment is, and when asked repeatedly about his nonparticipation, Gooden replied, "I'm good."

"He should be back tomorrow, too," Harbaugh said of Gooden. "We'll see. But [we] just gave him a day here. We'll see him tomorrow."

In addition to Carr and Gooden, offensive tackles Jared Gaither (back spasms), Tony Moll (concussion) and Stefan Rodgers (leg); cornerback K.J. Gerard (hamstring); center David Hale (unspecified); and safety Marcus Paschal (right leg) did not practice Sunday.

Mattison returns to offense

Bryan Mattison is back with the offensive line -- for now.

A defensive lineman out of Iowa, Mattison has alternated between both sides of the trenches and filled in as a defensive lineman because of depth issues during the team's playoff run last season.

"They told me, when it happened, that it was going to be a short-term thing and that I'd be going back," said Mattison, whose father, Greg, is the team's defensive coordinator. "I'll just do whatever the team needs."

End zone

Sunday's practice was lighter than usual, with players dressed in shorts and shells; veterans over age 30 got the day off -- except for quarterback Marc Bulger, center Matt Birk and tight end Todd Heap. "They're still sore and a little fatigued," Harbaugh said. "The main thing today was mental, and they did a good job of that." Â After 10 consecutive days of training camp -- 12 days for rookies, injured players and a few select veterans -- the players are eager for Thursday's preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers. "Guys will always say, 'It's time to hit somebody else,' and there really is truth in that," Harbaugh said. "That's why you practice -- to play games. We try to do that in practice so that they're set up to play well in game situations." Â Rookie cornerback Prince Miller, who was absent from practice, welcomed the birth of a daughter Sunday, according to his Twitter account (Sheeeesh_Miller).

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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