BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The cursive, decade-old tattoo on Willis McGahee’s neck reads “Guess Who’s Back.”
Briefly out of the league, he is indeed back again — this time with his fourth team, hoping to bring stability to the reeling Browns.
On Wednesday, Cleveland dealt running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis, less than two years after drafting him in the first round. On Thursday, the Browns signed McGahee, who practiced for the first time on Friday.
And ready or not, McGahee, 31, is going to play Sunday, when the Browns (0-2) visit the Minnesota Vikings (0-2).
Such is life in the NFL.
“It’s a fresh start, a new beginning,” McGahee said. “The players are great, it’s a young team. We’ve got work to do.”
McGahee, who has played for Buffalo, Baltimore and Denver after a memorable career at the University of Miami, has a familiarity with the offense, but knows he must get the language down.
“I want to come and do everything I can,” he said. “But I gotta gradually come in. I just can’t come in and do the whole workload. But I’m going to do whatever it takes.”
Despite the quick turnaround, coach Rob Chudzinski has “100 percent faith in him” and knows “nothing is holding him back.”
All that said, McGahee joins the team during one of its most tumultuous weeks.
In addition to Richardson’s stunning trade, third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer was named the starter following Brandon Weeden’s thumb injury, while wide receiver Greg Little lost his starting job to Davone Bess.
“It’s not a safe business where anybody can say that ‘I’m comfortable and they can’t trade me or they can’t cut me’ or anything like that,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “Nobody’s untouchable.”
Even as a six-time Pro Bowl player and the anchor of the offensive line, Thomas doesn’t see himself as trade-proof.
“That’s the way you have to work,” Thomas said. “Because if you ever get complacent, that’s when you’re going to get beat or play bad.”
Thomas also understands that fans are all too familiar with the concept of “rebooting” the team, but he doesn’t see Richardson’s trade as another full-on rebuilding effort.
“It doesn’t mean we’re starting over from Day 1,” Thomas said. “It’s a process and we’re trying to build a consistent winner. That’s what the goal is. Obviously, they felt the trade of Trent is something that is going to help move us forward to be a consistent winner.”
McGahee was surprised by the trade, initially expecting to work side-by-side with Richardson after learning the Browns could be an option for him on Monday.
“Honestly, to tell you the truth, when I got the call, he hadn’t been traded yet,” McGahee said.
McGahee, who will wear jersey No. 26, has made the Pro Bowl twice, and has had a durable nine-year career after a serious knee injury at Miami. He’s rushed for 8,097 career yards, including four 1,000-yard seasons.
“Who knew I was going to play ten years,” McGahee asked. “Everybody thought I wasn’t going to play at all.
“I’ve been just surprising everybody.”
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