McGahee running out of answers

The Baltimore Sun

Willis McGahee said his aches have improved from Sunday, but the Ravens running back has yet to shake off his performance.

In the Ravens' 24-10 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday night, McGahee finished with 32 rushing yards and one fumble on 11 carries. He also mishandled a pitch that went out of bounds for an 8-yard loss.

"I'm back to normal, but I played like doo-doo," said a glum McGahee, who suffered a shoulder stinger and a mild concussion. "It's nothing to be happy about. Just have to do better this game."

McGahee, who missed Wednesday's practice because of a family issue, returned yesterday in hopes of getting his season back on track.

Since rushing for a season-high 112 yards at Houston, he has rushed for 58 yards in four games. His longest run during that rut has been 7 yards.

Asked whether he thought the coaches still had confidence in him, McGahee said: "To tell you the truth, I wouldn't. I haven't had the best season. Right now, Le'Ron [McClain] and Ray [Rice] are the hot guys. You stick with your guns."

In his sixth season, McGahee is on pace for career lows in carries, rushing yards and rushing average. Since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in training camp, McGahee has dealt with injuries to his eye, ribs and ankle.

"I'm not making any excuses," McGahee said. "I made a decision to go out there and play, and I haven't been performing the way I can."

McGahee acknowledged that his struggles have created doubts about his future with the Ravens but said, "You can't pout about [it].

"You look at the last performance I had, it wasn't good," he said. "You have to deal with your medicine."

Pro Bowl leaders

Four Ravens finished first at their respective positions in fan voting for the 2009 Pro Bowl. Inside linebacker Ray Lewis, free safety Ed Reed, fullback McClain and special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo earned the most votes at their positions.

Ayanbadejo overcame a deficit of 10,619 votes to beat out the Pittsburgh Steelers' Anthony Madison by 49,532. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs finished fifth in voting.

Fan voting, which ended Tuesday, will count one-third toward determining the 43-man AFC roster at the Pro Bowl. NFL players and coaches cast their votes yesterday and today. The AFC and NFC rosters will be announced Tuesday at 4 p.m. on the NFL Pro Bowl Selection Show on the NFL Network.

Stover improving

Despite suffering what he called the worst sprain of his career, kicker Matt Stover said his right ankle is improving. Stover did not practice for the second consecutive day but remained optimistic he would play against the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at M&T; Bank Stadium.

Wide receiver Derrick Mason (dislocated left shoulder) and Rice (left shin bruise) also missed practice for the second straight day. Starting left offensive tackle Jared Gaither (right shoulder) was downgraded to no practice after being limited Wednesday. Wide receiver Marcus Maxwell (hip) also did not practice.

Four players who did not practice Wednesday - wide receivers Mark Clayton (knee) and Yamon Figurs (bruised left knee) and safeties Jim Leonhard (illness) and Reed (hamstring) - were upgraded. Reed, Clayton and Figurs were limited, while Leonhard fully participated. Rookie guard David Hale (left ankle) was limited for the second consecutive day.

End zone

Steelers linebacker James Harrison (knee) was downgraded from full participation to no practice. Defensive end Brett Keisel (knee) and offensive tackle Marvel Smith (back) also missed practice. Strong safety Troy Polamalu (calf) was upgraded from no practice to limited participation. Wide receiver Hines Ward, running back Willie Parker, defensive end Aaron Smith and cornerback Deshea Townsend practiced after sitting out Wednesday for reasons unrelated to injury. ... Suggs implored Ravens fans not to sell tickets to Sunday's showdown to Pittsburgh fans. "[The] ultimate disrespect," Suggs called it. "I don't think they'd sell any of their tickets to us, so don't sell your tickets. This is probably one you might want to be in attendance to. You might want to see this one go down." ... Lewis was recently named by NFL offensive players as the one defensive player they would rather not encounter, according to Sports Illustrated. "I always want to be remembered as that guy that every play you've got to deal with me," Lewis said. "That's the respect you look for. You don't look for it outside. You look for it from your peers and people that you play against. So when you do get that type of respect, it just goes to show that all the hard work that you do put in, it pays off."

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