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American Football: McGahee settles for backup role

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posted on Sep, 9 2004 @ 12:13 PM
Travis Henry will be the Buffalo Bills starter on opening day, leaving Willis McGahee to settle for playing backup.

McGahee said Wednesday he can live with the role, but he doesn't have to like it.

"That's their decision, it ain't mine," McGahee said after practice. "That's all I can say about that. I'm not worried about it. My time will come. ... Only one person can start and unfortunately he's the one that's starting."

And it's not enough that McGahee will get playing time in third-down situations.

"What, third down?" McGahee said. "Nothing's good enough for now. But you know, you always strive to be better, and that's what I'm going to do."

It came as no surprise when coach Mike Mularkey announced he's sticking with Henry, the incumbent, heading into the team's opener against Jacksonville on Sunday.

"Travis is the starting running back," Mularkey said. "If he needs a blow, Willis is there in the wings and, hopefully, there's not a dropoff in level of play."

That's nothing different from what the rookie coach has been saying since the team's first minicamp last March.

And the decision settles for now, at least, a potentially contentious issue after both Henry and McGahee expressed reservations about playing a secondary role.

Henry, coming off his second straight 1,300-yard rushing season, has previously said he expects one of the two to be traded after this year.

McGahee is the Bills' first-round pick in the 2003 draft. He missed all of last year recovering from a severe left knee injury. Last month, The Associated Press cited a source close to the player in reporting McGahee asked to be traded if he wouldn't be the starter on opening day.

The Bills have denied that report. And the team has maintained it has no intention of trading either player this year.

"I don't want to be no backup," McGahee said Wednesday. "But you know, they're paying me. They're paying me a good salary. So to be a backup, I'll be a backup."

McGahee is coming off a promising preseason in which he led the team with 167 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He also started the final two preseason games, filling in after Henry bruised his ribs.

It was McGahee's first action since he was hurt in his final college game at Miami, the Hurricanes' loss to Ohio State in the 2003 national championship.

Mularkey said he's seen the player improve with each game. Mularkey also noted McGahee has been tentative at times, something expected from someone who's been out for such a long period.

Henry said he's healthy to start and never doubted he'd lose his job. He added it's time to put any hurt feelings aside to concentrate on the season.

"This is what it's about, it's about team. It ain't about us," Henry said. "I'm just worried about Jacksonville. Anything else, I can't control. I can't control who's going to be happy, who isn't going to be happy. I control what I do Sunday."

The Bills listed two players as out: starting safety Lawyer Milloy, who could miss the first two games after breaking his right forearm last month; and rookie QB J.P. Losman, expected to miss the first half of the season with a broken left leg.

posted on Sep, 9 2004 @ 04:57 PM
Probably th ebest backup in the league.

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