When Cleveland Browns running back Willis McGahee faces his old team Sunday, he'll hardly recognize the Ravens' overhauled roster.
No more inside linebacker Ray Lewis, no more free safety Ed Reed and not many players remaining on the team since McGahee's final season in Baltimore in 2010.
The absence of a retired Lewis and a departed Reed, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Houston Texans in March, is particularly jarring to McGahee, a fellow University of Miami football alum.
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"It’s different, because every time I used to look at them, they used to be back there controlling everything," McGahee said during a conference call Wednesday. "And now it’s a bunch of new faces. I guess it was time for them to start over and bring in new people.”
McGahee played four seasons for the Ravens before being cut in 2011 after backing up Ray Rice for the final two years.
McGahee rushed for a career-high 1,207 yards for the Ravens in 2007 and was named to the Pro Bowl after being acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills and signing a seven-year, $40.12 million contract.
"I had some good times in Baltimore," McGahee said. "I can’t complain about it. I was done right by the city and the organization. There’s no hatred or anything. It’s a business. It was time for me to move on and go somewhere else, and that’s what happened.”
McGahee spent the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos, rushing for 1,199 yards in 2011 in his first season there after signing a four-year, $9 million contract. He injured his knee last season and was placed on injured reserve before being released in June.
The Browns gave McGahee a call and moved quickly to sign him to a one-year, $940,000 contract in September after they traded running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first-round draft pick.
McGahee, 32, has rushed for a modest 231 yards and one touchdown with an average of 2.9 yards per carry in six games and four starts since joining the Browns.
“I think I’m doing pretty good. I’m doing OK," said McGahee, who was held to 28 yards on nine carries in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. "It doesn’t help when we’re down by two touchdowns in the first half, so you really can’t run the ball. But what I’ve been doing, I’ve been doing pretty decent.”
For his career, McGahee has rushed for 8,328 yards and 64 touchdowns with 205 receptions for 1,321 yards and five touchdowns.
McGahee has also provided a mentoring presence for his younger teammates.
"Willis has been big for us in a number of ways," Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. "He brings, not just from a football standpoint, his [leadership] ability and his running ability and the things that he does from that standpoint. We have a young group of guys, and the leadership that he brings, the maturity and the perspective that he’s had, he’s been great in terms of that.”