McGahee cleared for practice by Bills

Updated: October 14, 2003, 8:22 PM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Bills running back Willis McGahee will start practicing this week, nearly 10 months after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his left knee.

McGahee is set to practice for the first time Wednesday, opening the possibility for the first-round pick to begin playing within three weeks. McGahee was cleared after the Bills' training staff and team doctor John Marzo examined him, Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold said.

Marzo's OK came after McGahee worked out in front of Bills president Tom Donahoe and coach Gregg Williams. McGahee also worked out on Monday and his injured knee showed no sign of swelling.

Last week, the former Miami star passed a physical given by Hurricanes team doctor John Uribe, who performed the surgery to repair the three ligaments McGahee tore in the Fiesta Bowl last January.

McGahee, selected 23rd overall, opened the season on the reserve nonfootball injury list. NFL rules bar a player on the list from practicing until between the start of Week 7 and the start of Week 10, when a three-week window opens for the Bills to determine whether to activate him.

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's agent Drew Rosenhaus was confident his client would be activated within the next three weeks.

"It's up to the Bills and we'll respect whatever they do. But at this point we all anticipate that he's going to be playing," Rosenhaus said.

While striking a note of caution about McGahee's recovery, Rosenhaus said his client could be ready to play when Buffalo plays at Kansas City on Oct. 26 even though the Bills have a bye the following week.

"I think there's a realistic chance," Rosenhaus said. "He feels great. He's eager to play."

McGahee was itching to hit the practice field last week after he was cleared by Uribe.

"I've got full confidence in my knee because I know what I can do," he said. "I'm looking forward to see how things are going to turn out."

McGahee's presence could spark a competition with Travis Henry, who finished last year as the NFL's fifth-leading rusher with 1,438 yards.

Henry was initially unhappy with the Bills' draft choice -- calling it "a slap in the face" -- but has since said he is open to the competition.

The Bills' running game could certainly use a spark. Averaging less than 58 yards rushing a game, Buffalo (3-3) ranks last in the NFL as it prepares to host Washington on Sunday.

Last August, McGahee 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 was projected to be a top-three pick before he was hurt.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index