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 OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -Willis McGahee was sitting outside the Baltimore Ravens' locker room Thursday when cornerback Chris McAlister walked by, rubbing his fingers together - the universal sign used to ask for money.
McAlister was offering to sell McGahee jersey No. 21, which the running back wore during his turbulent tenure with the Buffalo Bills.
``No, you can have it,'' McGahee replied. ``I'm good.''
Obtained in a trade with the Bills in March, McGahee is content to wear No. 23 in Baltimore.
``I don't want 21. I'm looking for a fresh start, and 23 was the number I was picked,'' he said, referring to being the 23rd overall selection in the 2003 NFL draft.
McGahee sat out his first year with Buffalo while recovering from a severe knee injury, then ran for 3,365 yards and 24 touchdowns over his next three seasons. But the Bills showed their displeasure with his performance - and attitude - by shipping him to the Ravens for a few draft picks, even though Buffalo had no successor in place.
McGahee replaces Jamal Lewis, whom the Ravens let sign with Cleveland.
``Perfect scenario, perfect situation, perfect team. It doesn't get any better than this,'' McGahee said. ``When I got here, at first I was little nervous. But it's all love right now.''
Unlike Lewis, McGahee is a slashing runner and a threat as a receiver.
``He does a lot of things,'' coach Brian Billick said, ``and is going to give us a lot of versatility in our running game that maybe we haven't had the last few years.''
And, while McGahee's attitude was perceived by some to be a problem in Buffalo, the Ravens are delighted with the enthusiasm he has thus far displayed with his new team. McGahee showed up at involuntary camps last month and ran hard at the three-day mandatory camp that ended Thursday.
A star at the University of Miami, McGahee quickly formed a friendship with former Hurricanes Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. McGahee's locker is next to Reed's, and recently the running back has seen more of Lewis than his own family.
``Me and him have been together for the last 10 or 15 days talking about football. A lot of time you don't get that from players anymore because they want the offseason to be the offseason,'' Ray Lewis said. ``But he understands that truthfully, if you're trying to do something, there is no real offseason.''
Ray Lewis has provided the Ravens' defense with a swagger for the past 11 years, and now he expects McGahee to do likewise for Baltimore's attack.
``There's a certain attitude that you have to have on the offensive side of the football,'' the linebacker said. ``The same attitude we have on defense, he has on offense.''
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs didn't attend Miami, but he expressed a similar measure of respect for McGahee after getting a firsthand view of his quickness this week.
``He's a hard runner. I can't wait to see him in action in that purple,'' Suggs said. ``He has that black visor like the rest of the defense. He has that Miami swagger, and you know we could use a little bit of that. It's good to have him here. It's good to have a guy who's so sure of himself.''
McGahee twice rushed for more than 1,000 yards with Buffalo, but is rarely mentioned among the league's best backs. With Baltimore, however, he's now part of a team that has long relied on its running game and fully expects to be playing in the next Super Bowl.
Willis McGahee: Best running back in football. That sounds pretty good to him.
``Talk is cheap,'' he said. ``You know what? I don't want it given to me, I want to take it.''
Although McGahee worked hard to return from the devastating knee injury that occurred in his final game at Miami, he never really felt right until last year.
``When I came back, I always had a little hitch, a little limp. I couldn't make certain cuts. Now I can do this and that, get away,'' he said. ``It doesn't bother me right now. I can do squats, whatever I want.''
His take on the injury is essentially the same as his perception of his time in Buffalo: ``It's in the past, it's behind me.''
McGahee has turned his attention toward being a star with a playoff team. If all goes as planned, that scenario could come true this year.
``I really didn't get to touch the football a lot in my years in the NFL. Like I told the coaches here, I've got to put some miles on these legs and get it going,'' he said.
``I can't wait. The last time I was this excited about a season was when I got to start in college.''
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