Less than 24 hours after being wheeled from the AFC championship game at Heinz Field on a stretcher, Ravens running back Willis McGahee was back in the team's locker room in Owings Mills yesterday talking about the ferocious hit he had yet to see.
"I'm all right. Everything's OK," McGahee said after the team's final meeting of the season with coach John Harbaugh. "The MRI and CAT scans checked out good, so everything's good."
After catching a pass from quarterback Joe Flacco in the middle of the field and taking a few steps downfield late in the fourth quarter of the Steelers' 23-14 win, McGahee was drilled by Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark. It appeared that Clark's shoulder and head hit McGahee's head.
McGahee fumbled the ball, and the Ravens running back stayed on the ground motionless for many minutes while being attended by medical staff. He was eventually strapped to a stretcher and taken from the field. After an overnight stay at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, McGahee returned to Baltimore yesterday morning.
In a statement, the Ravens said McGahee was expected to make a full recovery from the head and neck injuries he suffered.
Asked whether he believed he had taken a clean hit, McGahee said that not only had he not seen the play but he wasn't even aware of who tackled him.
"Yeah, I blacked out," he said. "When I woke up, they were taking my face mask off, but I was still talking. I don't know how I was doing it. I just remember that my eyes were closed, and I was still talking. The next thing I know, we're in some kind of room in their stadium, and then we were in the ambulance."
McGahee said he was aware he had movement in his arms and legs soon after regaining consciousness but that he was being told not to move.
"They kept saying, 'Don't move, don't move,' but it's hard," McGahee said.
Before he was taken from the field, McGahee said he shook hands with safety Ed Reed, who also played at University of Miami.
McGahee has characterized 2008 as a disappointing season in terms of personal goals, although he was excited to reach the AFC championship game. He had knee surgery in training camp, and through most of the season, McGahee shared running back duties with Le'Ron McClain, who finished as the team's leading rusher, and rookie Ray Rice, who missed several games at the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs with a shin injury.
During the regular season, McGahee carried the ball 170 times for 671 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 24 passes for 173 yards. His rushing totals were his lowest by far in his five-season NFL career. In 2007, his first season as a Raven after being acquired from the Buffalo Bills in a trade, McGahee rushed for 1,207 yards and caught 43 passes.
However, in the conference championship game in Pittsburgh, McGahee was designated as the Ravens' feature back, and he responded with 60 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries and 13 yards on two pass receptions. On a day when the Ravens had a tough time generating any offense at all, gaining just 198 total yards, McGahee was team leader in yards from scrimmage.
As his teammates cleaned out their lockers yesterday, McGahee said he would like to return to the Ravens next season but added that the decision rested with the team.
"Like our coaches tell us, it's a business," McGahee said. "Some of us will be here; some of us won't. I can't control that. But if I am [back], I will be here and show my teammates what kind of person I am. They know what they're going to get from me."