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Roundup: Rusty McGahee Practices Without Brace & More
As Buffalo News sports reporter Allen Wilson described it: "Willis McGahee took the handoff, hit the hole with a quick burst and sprinted 30 yards down the field. It was only one play and one day, but it gave a glimpse of why the Buffalo Bills took what many thought was a gamble in last year's draft."

Wilson went on to suggest that while McGahee isn't quite where he was before suffering a horrific knee injury 14 months ago, "He's close. Very close."

"I'm still a little rusty, but that's to be expected," the second-year running back said following the Bills' three-day veteran mini-camp last week. "But I'm healthy and that's the important thing. I'm going to go out there and give it all I've got. There's no limit to what I can do right now."

McGahee, who was held out all of last year, took part in every drill last week. He also practiced without a knee brace, an indication that his surgically reconstructed left knee is sound.

Barring any setbacks, McGahee should be ready to contribute this season.

"He's been impressive," head coach Mike Mularkey said. "I saw no hesitation at all with his knee. He looked very fluid and I think he built a lot of confidence in this camp. "We're going like he is full go. To me, sometimes you can make them too conscious of it. I personally don't ask him how he's feeling. I let the trainers tell me. We're trying to get him confident and it looks like he is ready."

The Bills won't know for sure if McGahee is really ready until he puts the pads on and takes that first hit in a game. However, Mularkey still has big plans for McGahee, who is expected to have a large role in the team's new run-oriented offense.

Of course, how much McGahee plays will be determined not only by his health but the presence of incumbent starter Travis Henry.

Coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Henry isn't about to relinquish his starting spot easily and as Wilson put it: "One of the compelling story lines going into this season is whether Henry and McGahee can co-exist."

Both players are willing to give it a try.

"I don't think it will be a problem," McGahee said. "I think the coaches have a plan to make it work."

"If it can work I want to make it work," Henry said. "It's something different for both of us. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Henry and McGahee will do more than just split carries and playing time. There were several plays where they lined up in the backfield together last week.

It's a personnel grouping Mularkey said will be used often this season.

"I actually got a name for it, so it must exist," Mularkey said. "You've got guys who can do both, catch the ball and run the ball. That will give some teams some problems.

"We're not going to ask them to be lead backs and blow up backers like you ask a true fullback to do. But they'll both get their share of blocking responsibilities, catching the ball and running. If you get two quality backs like that, you've got to get them on the field somehow."

But as Wilson noted, McGahee is no different from the rest of us; he wonders if he has regained the explosive speed and power that made him a consensus All-American at the University of Miami.

But he's not going to rush it. If the months of rehabilitation have taught him anything, it is patience.

"I can play today if we had a game, but I'm just going to take my time and build myself up to where I want to be," McGahee said. "When the time comes for me to show what I can do, I'll be ready. But I've got time. Right now, I just feel good about getting back on the field again. ..."

Other Fantasy-specific news and notes of interest from around the NFL. ...

In Cleveland. ... According to Associated Press football writer Barry Wilner, head coach Butch Davis is not committing to William Green or Lee Suggs as his main running back for next season.

But Wilner added: "When he talks about Suggs, the subject matter is far brighter than about Green, who spent 72 hours in jail last month on a drunken driving charge."

Green also was reinstated by the NFL in January after being suspended indefinitely for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

During his suspension, Green was hospitalized with a stab wound to his back. His fiancee, Asia Gray, was charged with attacking Green in their home.

"I think he's made some progress," Davis said of Green, a first-round draft choice in 2002. "There was a laundry list of things that he needed to take care of. Some were career-wise, some were professional, some were family and some were personal. And he's started checking those things off. ... Working his way through counseling and reconciliation.

"We're encouraged that he's working at it. Right now, he's back in good standing with the team."

Asked directly if Green is the starter -- or if Suggs will get the job after rehabilitating a shoulder injury and getting back on the field late last season, the coach was noncommittal.

"Without trying to create a major controversy, William still has a lot to prove," Davis explained. "He's got a lot to prove to the team, to me and everybody else. I think there's some things that he's got to earn back, and we'll see where that takes us."

As for Suggs, a fourth-round draft pick last year, Davis praised his attitude and work ethic.

"Lee Suggs did a lot of really positive things before he ever hit the field," Davis said. "The way he handled the [physically unable to perform list], and the (shoulder) surgery, and the ability to rehab. Then when he got into practice, the statements he made about doing whatever, cover kickoffs, just to help us win. He was thrilled to play.

"Then when he got a chance to be a running back, in the Cincinnati game, he did very well.

"In this league, you've got to do that about 100 games in a row. ..."

Also of interest in Cleveland. ... Davis told staffer Dylan Tomlinson on Tuesday the Browns are "in discussions" with the Green Bay Packers about a possible trade for quarterback Tim Couch.

The Packers asked for and received permission from the Browns last week to talk to Couch, and Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman met with the former No. 1 pick last week in Ohio.

Davis said he's "open-minded" about the possibility of bringing back Couch next season as a backup to newly signed Jeff Garcia, but said a trade was likely.

"There has been some discussion about compensation with Green Bay," Davis said. "I'm optimistic that we're close to getting this resolved."

"At the end of the day you'd like to do something that's good for everyone," Davis said. "(Trading Couch) might bring some clarity to our locker room."

While Green Bay could probably acquire Couch for a mid-round pick, the Packers may be waiting until it can see which quarterbacks are available in April's NFL draft. They also may be waiting for Cleveland to cut Couch. Davis said that might not happen.

"Monetarily, we don't have to do it," Davis said. "We just can't throw him away."

One last note out of Cleveland. ... According to Akron Beacon Journal staff writer Patrick McManamon, Davis met with Northcutt for 40 minutes on March 23 at a USC workout.

Northcutt had been excited about becoming a free agent but lost that right when his agent failed to void the final three years of his contract by the date stipulated in his contract. That left Northcutt angry, and the Browns gave him permission to work out a trade.

Davis seems to be trying to smooth things over with the receiver, who is set to be paid about $700,000 per year the next three years. Northcutt clearly was hoping for more on the open market.

Davis said, though, that the Browns had given Northcutt permission to measure his market value prior to free agency, and Northcutt and his agent learned he might not have hit the jackpot like he expected.

"I think that brought a lot of reality to him," Davis said.

What will happen with Northcutt remains a mystery. The Browns could hold Northcutt to the terms of the contract.

"He's under contract for three years so we talked about what his role would be on the team, his opportunity to compete and try to win a starting job," Davis said. "We talked about his value to us over the last couple years, the way he helped us win games.

"Everything was very friendly. We got along really well."

Northcutt told Davis his preference is to be on a team where he can start. With the Browns, he's the third receiver. Davis' preference?

"I'm going to speak as the football coach: There's absolutely no way that you can give this kid away," Davis said. "He has excellent value to us."

Which according to McManamon, translates to: "The Browns will not agree to a trade that does not include a high draft pick. ..."

In Washington. ... The Redskins on Tuesday re-signed restricted free agent wide receiver Darnerien McCants, who tied for the team lead in touchdowns last season, to a three-year contract.

McCants, 25, was given a one-year qualifying offer of $628,000 before the start of free agency, a move that would have given the Redskins a fifth-round draft pick if another team signed him.

And while there was interest from other teams, Washington Post staff writer Nunyo Demasio reports that head coach Joe Gibbs made it clear the team didn't want to lose the 6-foot-3, 214-pound wideout and the sides agreed to a deal that will pay McCants approximately $1.5 million annually.

McCants entered training camp last season on the bubble to make the roster but finished with 27 catches for 360 yards, and tied Pro Bowl wideout Laveranues Coles for the team lead in touchdowns with six.

Monday's acquisition of wide receiver James Thrash from the Philadelphia Eagles for a draft pick -- a trade the Redskins said will be officially announced today -- didn't factor in McCants' contract talks, sources close to the negotiations said.

"They've been bringing in other people all my career here," McCants said. "But I'm like a bad habit. They won't get rid of me that easy."

According to Demasio, McCants caught passes Tuesday for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in early January. During an informal workout at Redskins Park, McCants snagged balls from quarterbacks Mark Brunell, Tim Hasselbeck and Patrick Ramsey, then signed his new deal.

The surgery prevented McCants from participating in Gibbs' three-day mini-camp last weekend, but the coach apparently saw enough film to know he wanted to keep him.

"I heard from the other coaches that coach Gibbs was comparing me to Art Monk. That's crazy," McCants said, referring to Gibbs' former wide receiver. "Now that it's official I can just concentrate on football, and go full steam ahead. ..."

In New York. ... Amani Toomer was given a five-year, $20 million contract that will keep the receiver with the New York Giants through the 2008 season.

Toomer had three years left on his existing contract. He was to have earned $3.9 million this season in base salary, and would have counted $6.64 million toward the 2004 salary cap.

The new deal lowers his salary cap number for this season, but the team said the real savings will come in later years.

Toomer, the team's leading receiver last year, had 63 catches and five touchdowns in 16 games, averaging 66.1 yards a game.

Also in New York. ... According to New York Daily News beat man Rich Cimini, even though they expect concussion-plagued wide receiver Wayne Chrebet to be on their training-camp roster, the Jets protected themselves financially against a season-ending injury by inserting a "concussion clause" in a newly restructured contract.

Chrebet, signed through 2008, agreed to a $1.3 million pay cut that lowers his base salary this season to $1.5 million, according to NFL Players' Association documents. The pay cut isn't a surprise, considering Chrebet probably will lose his starting job, but the new contract does include an injury-related wrinkle.

The Jets got Chrebet to sign a "split" contract, a complicated deal that would save them from having to pay his entire $1.5 million salary if he's placed on injured reserve with a concussion. Ordinarily, a player receives his full salary on injured reserve.

The contract states that only a concussion, and no other injury, can trigger the "split" salary.

Cimini added that Chrebet's condition has improved, and he's participating in the team's offseason conditioning program. ...

In Detroit. ... Assuming Rick Mirer passes his physical this week, the Lions have their third-string quarterback for next season.

"We've agreed to terms," head coach Steve Mariucci told Detroit Free Press staffer Curt Sylvester on Monday. "We're going to bring him in and give him a physical. That's the routine we have. I think he's going to come in Thursday when I'm there, when we're all back."

Mirer, 34, fills the vacancy left by the departure of Ty Detmer to Atlanta. He has a history with Mariucci and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, having been with them at San Francisco.

Although his career performance record is only average, Mirer brings a veteran presence that Mariucci likes for a backup to Joey Harrington and Mike McMahon.

"He's healthy, he's played recently, he knows our system and he's a smart guy," Mariucci said.

"The year he was with us (at San Francisco) was the year I had Greg Olson as the quarterbacks coach, so they know each other well. It's a good fit. ..."

And finally. ... According to insider Len Pasquarelli, the Raiders still hope to acquire disgruntled Cincinnati tailback Corey Dillon, but the team continues to hold its cards close to the vest, and the much-rumored deal does not appear imminent.

In fact, an unnamed Raiders coach hinted that Oakland officials are content for now to wait and see how the Bengals handle the Dillon situation.

"The [preference] is to trade for him, and get him into the system, but only at the right price. But most people think you can get [Dillon] for nothing when they cut him in the summer," the coach told Pasquarelli.