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PRO FOOTBALL

McGahee Hasn't Lost Confidence

February 21, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — Running back Willis McGahee temporarily has lost his ability to run, but he hasn't lost a shred of his University of Miami swagger.

McGahee, a Hurricane sophomore widely considered a top draft prospect before he suffered a devastating knee injury Jan. 3 in the Fiesta Bowl, plans to make himself available for this spring's NFL draft. He can't run yet but has been making some bold predictions this week at the league's scouting combine.

"I'm not a fortune teller," he said when asked how many yards he could gain next season. "But if everything goes right, it will be well over 1,000.

"I'm just looking for somebody to give me a chance."

Before he suffered three torn ligaments in his left knee, McGahee was projected to be a top-five selection. Now, he probably will fall to late second or third round. Among the teams said to be very interested are Tampa Bay, which has the last pick of the second round, and Houston. On the first full day of the combine Wednesday, McGahee spoke to representatives from the Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams, New Orleans Saints and Buccaneers.

He rushed for 1,753 yards and 28 touchdowns last season.

"I don't think I'd be a risk," he said. "If teams pass me up, they pass me up. But whoever gets me has got a good pick."

McGahee took out a $2.5-million insurance policy two weeks before he was injured and can collect after a year if the injury prevents him from returning to football. But McGahee is confident he'll never have to cash in that policy. Six weeks after surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament, he walks with only a hint of a limp and said he probably will be able to do some light jogging within the next four weeks. He predicted he could be running by June.

He is under the care of Dr. Walter Lowe, team physician for the Houston Texans, Houston Rockets and University of Houston. Lowe was asked to oversee the case by Dr. John Uribe, who performed the surgery.

"All indications are that he's going to get well, but he's still got a long way to go," Lowe said. "He needs to focus on getting well, and he shouldn't be in a hurry."

Lowe said McGahee's knee will be checked in April and that will be "very important for him."

"The recovery period's tough enough when you've torn one ligament," Lowe said. "It will be nine months in September. It's way too early to predict that he'll be able to play that soon....

"He'll play again, and he'll be good again -- just when is the question."

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