Coach John Harbaugh spent a good portion of his news conference this afternoon reiterating that running back Willis McGahee is a valued cog in the offense. McGahee has been overshadowed by fullback Le'Ron McClain as the team's leading rusher the last two weeks, and he did not get one carry in yesterday's 34-3 win against the Cincinnati Bengals as McClain and rookie Ray Rice shared tailback duties.
"I don't know what everybody's talking about," Harbaugh said. "We really like Willis McGahee. We think he's a really good player, and we plan on Willis being a huge part of what we're doing in December. He's been practicing very well. He's getting stronger and stronger throughout the course of the season. There's no question in my mind that Willis McGahee is a very talented back, and he's going to be a huge part of what we're doing here down the stretch."
Harbaugh said the plan will continue to utilize the three running backs based on health, strategy and effectiveness.
"Really, we think we've got three good players, and if you've got three really good players, why would you want to put two of them on the bench?" he said. "So we use them where we can, when we can according to health, according to who's most effective, according to the game plan. We have 53 guys on the roster, and we can put 45 guys up. We want to use all 45 if we can. That makes us stronger as a group, as a team. That's really the whole idea."
Earlier this afternoon, McGahee issued a statement, which read, "I support my Team and Coach Harbaugh, and I love playing in Baltimore. I am working hard and look forward to helping our Team win another Championship. Recently, LeRon, Ray and myself had the opportunity to give back to 700 families for Thanksgiving. It has been great working together with such good teammates on and off the field."
*Harbaugh said he's beginning to take note of the rivalry brewing between the Ravens and the Washington Redskins, the opponent this Sunday night. "I think it's real, but it's football," he said. "It's sports. It's going to be a rivalry. We're not too far apart. We hear about them, they hear about us. Our guys know their players. I'm sure they've been around their players at different times. We've got a lot of respect for them, so it's kind of a natural backyard rivalry. We're looking forward to playing in it."
*A little later, however, Harbaugh said he nor the players should feel honored about playing in front of a national TV audience. "We don't care about playing on primetime, we don't care if the rest of the country knows about us or not," Harbaugh said. "We're not interested in any of that. We're not trying to impress anybody. We're getting ready to play a football game on Sunday, and I think our guys understand how to win a tough football game when it counts. They've proven that."
*As the Ravens have done several times this season, they were forced to burn a timeout when quarterback Troy Smith stepped onto the field for the first time in the first quarter Sunday. "It's easy to say that it's time management," Harbaugh said. "It's a substitution issue. … We've got Mark Clayton down there at the 5-yard line trying to get back, and it's hard for him to know exactly what the substitution pattern is within that 40-second clock, and that's what happened in that situation."
*Harbaugh began his session with the media by singling out linebacker Terrell Suggs for making two key blocks on strong safety Jim Leonhard's 35-yard interception return for a touchdown; Smith's block on a Rice carry; and defensive end Trevor Pryce's overall performance.