Rookie RB cleared to test knee

Updated: October 14, 2003, 5:31 PM ET
Associated Press

BUFFALO, 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 comes a week after 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 Week 6 and 9, 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 and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, were not available for comment. Last week, McGahee was itching to begin practicing.

"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 Bill's 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.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press