Source: Ex-Miami star won't be happy as backup

Updated: August 20, 2004, 10:31 PM ET
Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Running back Willis McGahee has asked the Buffalo Bills to trade him if he is not their starter on opening day, a source told The Associated Press on Friday.

Willis McGahee
McGahee

McGahee's request was not issued as an ultimatum, but the player made clear he won't be happy playing backup to incumbent Travis Henry, said the source, who is close to McGahee and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold said, "There is no truth to that whatsoever."

Team president Tom Donahoe later denied the report, too.

"There's nothing to it," said Donahoe, who was at Philadelphia's preseason game against Baltimore on Friday night. "Willis is making progress and is very happy. We have no intention of trading him. We need them both."

McGahee was not available for comment, as the Bills were off Friday in preparation for Saturday's preseason game against Tennessee. McGahee's agent Drew Rosenhaus declined comment.

After hosting Tennessee, the Bills close their preseason with two road games in preparation for their season-opener against Jacksonville on Sept. 12.

Questions about how the two running backs can work together have been raised since the Bills selected McGahee 23rd overall in the 2003 draft.

Henry is now coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season while McGahee missed his entire rookie season recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left knee.

The former Miami star was considered a top-three pick before he was hurt in his final college game, the Hurricanes' loss to Ohio State in the national championship, the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

Rookie coach Mike Mularkey has said that both players can work together this season, but has maintained that Henry is his starter.

That's been evident throughout camp, where Henry has worked exclusively with the starting unit while McGahee has worked mostly with the second string.

McGahee has looked good so far.

In his preseason debut, he had 13 carries for 58 yards, a 9-yard reception, and scored the go-ahead touchdown from the 1, in Buffalo's 16-6 win over Denver last Sunday. McGahee also shone, scoring four touchdowns from within 2 yards, during a controlled scrimmage against Cleveland earlier this month.

While Henry and McGahee refer to themselves as friends, theirs has been an uneasy relationship.

Henry initially called the Bills decision to draft McGahee a slap in the face.

He's since backed off that claim, saying the two can work together.

Henry, however, has previously said that he's not prepared to be a backup to McGahee. Henry has also said that he expects one of them to be traded after the end of this season.

Henry is signed through the 2005 season. McGahee has four years left on a contract that could potentially be worth $15.53 million if he meets all the incentives.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press