As he stood in front of his locker at The Castle yesterday morning and spoke to reporters, expanding on his remarks on a radio show the day before, Willis McGahee seemed to have a pretty good grasp of what he was trying to express. He corrected questioners, told anecdotes, made distinctions and spoke bluntly. Everybody residing inside McGahee's head was perfectly clear on what he meant.
McGahee, however, seemed completely clueless about how it all sounded when it left his mouth - to you the fans, to us the media, to the world.
How it goes over in the Ravens' world, of course, won't be certain until Sunday's playoff game in Miami, if then. John Harbaugh might be right; the last time a McGahee-related issue bubbled up, the coach cut off a question about it with, "Irrelevant!" Within the team, it might be so, particularly if McGahee is healthy and plays well.
On the other hand, among the Ravens' faithful, McGahee did little more yesterday than bring a shovel to the hole he had already dug and start digging an even deeper one.
There simply isn't a way to interpret this so that it reflects well on him: "My season is over. [Since] Week 5, I haven't done anything at all. It's not like I'm going to get 1,000 yards, so I'm just playing my role." That was his theme, and no matter how many chances he was given to steer in another direction, his answers kept him in a skid.
Such as: "Yeah, it's over. It's not like the season I normally have, so it's over for me. That's how I look at it." And: "Still, it's not like where I want to be at. I'm used to competing, but with the injuries and whatnot holding me back, I look at it as a loss."
Huh? The part of the season in which the Ravens went 9-2 and became the Team Nobody Wants to Play, McGahee looks at "as a loss," because he couldn't put up his usual numbers? Even the parts with his invaluable contributions - the 112 rushing yards in Houston, the 77-yard explosion in Dallas, the big touchdown in the playoff-berth clincher against the Jacksonville Jaguars?
Yes, after the Washington Redskins game, he made the famous self-diagnosis of playing like "doo-doo." But in Dallas, his teammates and coaches showered him with praise for being resilient and justifying their very public faith in him.
It was all so off-key. Yesterday afternoon, the Ravens were in harmony, about focus and opportunity and unity and defying labels like "rookie." Yet on the same day, one player kept pounding the words "I" and "me" into the ground, and it was the one who could afford it least.
With signs of redemption in his recent past and the promise of more to come - not to mention, you know, a Super Bowl run - McGahee seemed utterly wrapped up in himself. "Seemed" being the operative word. But, again, how else to interpret this: "See, I'm talking about my season, I'm not talking about the team's season. I'm talking about my season as an individual. That's what I'm meaning: My season is over with."
It actually is far from implausible for a player to feel acute disappointment with his own meager contributions to a team's postseason run. If you still believe athletes do not have egos, and do not need them like oxygen to succeed at this level, then you probably need to pack your stuff and move out of Fantasyland.
But if McGahee thinks letting those thoughts out of his head at this time and place couldn't damage how he's perceived from now on, then he's got some packing to do himself.
Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).