Pernell McPhee on mission to catch teammates in race to become starter

Pernell McPhee’s participation in his third consecutive day of practice Friday is a positive sign for the Ravens’ second-best sack artist from a year ago. But after knee surgery shelved him for the team’s mandatory minicamp in June and forced him to watch the first five days of training camp from the sidelines, the second-year defensive end conceded that he is trailing his teammates in his quest to succeed Cory Redding as a starter.

“As far as going and competing and trying to earn a starting spot, it isn’t good because I’m 20 steps behind,” McPhee said Friday. “Even though I know all the plays, I’m two steps slower than the other guys even though I’ve got fresher legs. I’m just trying to keep my mind strong, always thinking. I’m just going to go out and compete as hard as everybody else does.”

McPhee collected six sacks in his rookie campaign, finishing second only to the 14 sacks collected by five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs. But McPhee said he feels like he’s playing catch-up.

“If you’ve been out for two or three days, somebody else has been practicing ahead of you, and they’ve got their legs under them,” he said. “So they can move faster and they’re used to the practices. I’ve got to go out there and get used to all of that. I’ve got to get my legs back under me. All of that will come along, but I’m just practicing slowly and getting into it.”

McPhee said the coaching staff is taking it easy with him, allowing him to take part in individual drills, but keeping him out of full-team, physical exercises. McPhee said while he wants to get his hands dirty, he understands the plan.

“It’s been killing me ever since OTAs when I went down,” he said. “It’s been like 10 weeks. So it’s been killing me ever since, and I’ve been training really hard trying to get back. They just said, ‘We’ll take it as slow as we can.’ So we’re still in the process of taking it as slow as we can. They’re going to work me back into the reps, but I feel real good. I feel 100 percent, and I’m just real excited that I’m getting that second chance, that second opportunity to go out there and compete with my teammates.”

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