Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Tuesday, October 7, 2003
McGahee close to returning after passing physical


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Bills rookie Willis McGahee passed a physical on his injured left knee Tuesday, one of the final steps that would allow the running back to begin practicing as early as next week.

John Uribe conducted the physical in Miami. Uribe is the University of Miami team physician who surgically repaired the three torn ligaments McGahee sustained during the Hurricanes' loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl last January.

"He's ready to play," Uribe said. "He's worked pretty hard to get back to where he is and the fact that his biology cooperated is pretty amazing. He looks very good."

McGahee's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was excited by the findings, and said the results all but clear the way for his client to begin practicing.

"It was a successful visit and he's on his path to an amazing recovery," Rosenhaus said. "There doesn't appear to be any reason not to go ahead."

Rosenhaus said the Bills approved McGahee's exam in Miami, and that Uribe was passing along the results to the team's training staff.

The final step for McGahee's return is getting clearance from Bills team doctor John Marzo.

Bills president Tom Donahoe declined to comment on the test results.

"We will offer a comment when Willis has been cleared by our doctors for practice," Donahoe said.

The findings back up the results of the Bills' most recent tests, which showed McGahee's injured knee to be between 90 and 92 percent rehabilitated.

Uribe said the most important measure was comparing the strength in McGahee's injured leg to his healthy one.

"I would like to see more mass in his (injured) leg, but it was pretty close to normal," Uribe said. "His strength certainly measured proportional to his other knee. He's not going to be in any danger because of that, so it's OK for him to play."

McGahee, selected 23rd overall, opened the season on the reserve nonfootball injury list. The earliest he could take the field is next week, after the Bills (3-2) travel to play the Jets on Sunday.

NFL rules bar a player on the injured list from practicing until between Week 6 and 9. Once McGahee begins practicing, the Bills would have three weeks to determine whether to place him on the active roster.

Because of his long rehabilitation, McGahee is expected to require at least two weeks of practice before the Bills would consider using him in a game.

McGahee has spent the last two months working out on his own while being limited to watching practice from the sideline. The most he has been allowed to do is catch passes in a stationary position.

Last August, he signed a five-year contract that could potentially be worth $15.53 million. The deal is laden with incentives that more than double a base contract worth just over $7 million, including bonuses.

McGahee's presence could spark a running back competition in Buffalo. Returning starter Travis Henry was initially unhappy -- calling it "a slap in the face" -- the day McGahee was drafted.

Henry, who finished fifth in the NFL last season with 1,438 yards rushing, has since said he is open to competing with McGahee, who set school records with 1,753 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns last season.

Rosenhaus said his client is eager to show what he can do.

"He looks like he's closing in on getting back on the football field, which is going to be a remarkable accomplishment," Rosenhaus said. "We'll pop the champagne when he breaks that first touchdown." ^------

AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Miami contributed to this story.