McNair ready for the Saints

Published 3:30 pm Thursday, October 26, 2006

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair worked with the first-team offense Wednesday and expects to play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

McNair sustained a concussion and sprained neck in the first quarter of Baltimore’s 23-21 loss to Carolina on Oct. 15. The Ravens (4-2) had a well-timed bye last week, during which McNair recovered from the injuries.

McNair, 33, was listed as questionable on Wednesday’s injury report. But he has every intention of facing the Saints in a matchup of first-place teams.

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“I feel good today. Overall, it felt good to be out at practice,” McNair said. “I felt better than I have in a long time. I felt fresh, felt rejuvenated. I’m looking forward to this week.”

If the Ravens had a game last Sunday, McNair almost certainly would not have played. He still had some concern entering Wednesday’s practice, but afterward spoke confidently about putting the injuries behind him.

“I think today was a key. I needed to go out and execute the offense without any confusion, without any pause, without any hesitation. I’ve done that,” McNair said. “It’s fair to say I’m happy and ready to go.”

McNair has been put in charge of a revamped offense directed by head coach Brian Billick, who fired coordinator Jim Fassel after the Carolina game and took full control of the league’s 28th-ranked attack.

The result of the move won’t become evident until Sunday, but the change was welcomed by McNair and the rest of the offense.

“We’re on the right pace for doing things offensively. We’re doing something that puts some guys in position to make plays,” said McNair, whose 64.1 quarterback rating ranks 30th in the NFL.

McNair is in his first year with the Ravens after an 11-year run with etting these guys opportunities, and not take opportunities away by turning over the football,” he said.

Most of all, the week off provided McNair the opportunity to heal from the first concussion he received as an NFL quarterback.

“It’s a physical game. You’re going to have bumps and bruises,” McNair said. “I think the week off was a good time. Could I play last week? I don’t think so. But I think with the week off, it was a good time for me to heal, rest up and get myself back together.”

McNair returned Wednesday with a clear mind and a renewed determination to improve an offense that ranks 30th overall in yards per play.

“He’s ready to go,” tight end Todd Heap said. “You couldn’t tell anything about the concussion or anything; it was basically the normal Steve out there.”

“He’s ready to go the whole week,” said Billick, who also must take into account the difficultly McNair will experience playing in the raucous Louisiana Superdome.

The city of New Orleans and much of the country have embraced the Saints in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“This will be like nothing they ever heard,” Billick said of the Saints fans.