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C. McAlister happy to play again

Baltimore Sun

Hobbled and disenchanted, former Raven Chris McAlister wasn't sure he wanted to play in the NFL any more.

Suddenly, the 10-year veteran cornerback has been snapped up by the New Orleans Saints - one of only two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL - and he's glad to be back in pads again.

"Earlier in the offseason I wasn't ready or [didn't] have the mind-set to come back and play football," McAlister said Wednesday, his first day with the club. "For it to take as long as it did, I'm happy it happened before I had no other opportunity."

At 32, McAlister was bitter about being cut by Baltimore, the only team for which he'd played during a highlight-filled career that included three Pro Bowl invitations, a victory in the 2001 Super Bowl and a famous 107-yard touchdown return of a missed field goal.

"He's a veteran player that understands defense and is someone that we think can come in and help us," Saints coach Sean Payton said.

McAlister injured the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the middle of the 2007 season, but tried to play through it. He wound up playing in only eight games two seasons ago and six games last season before having season-ending surgery last November.

In February, while undergoing rehab, he was released by the Ravens. In June, he needed arthroscopic surgery to clean up debris in the same knee and he remained unsure about whether he wanted to attempt a comeback until the preseason rolled around.

"It was a bitter divorce in Baltimore, the way I was no longer a part of the club and for my first time in 10 years, didn't have any place to call home," McAlister said. "The offseason took on a new life for me. There was a transition period for me to figure out exactly if I'm going to come back and play football or am I not.

"The first preseason game started and I got butterflies like I was supposed to be coming out of a locker room somewhere. I knew I was supposed to be somewhere else instead of on my couch."

Payton said the Saints are trying to get McAlister ready to play this Sunday. They will be without starting cornerback Tracy Porter, who badly sprained his left knee last weekend against St. Louis.

McAlister has not played in more than a year. His last game was on Oct. 19 of last season.

DOLPHINS: Ronnie Brown, the team's leading rusher, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday because of a right foot injury suffered Sunday. Brown missed the final nine games of the 2007 season with a right knee injury. Ricky Williams, the 2002 NFL rushing champion, will replace Brown as starter.

BILLS: However interim his title might be, Perry Fewell made lasting impressions on his first day as Bills head coach after Buffalo fired Dick Jauron on Tuesday. The Bills have a new starting quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. They practiced in pads on a Wednesday for the first time that anyone can remember. "We had fun," Fewell said, who has little time to prepare for his debut on Sunday, when the Bills (3-6) travel to play at Jacksonville (5-4).

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