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Ravens fondly remember McNair as leader and friend

BALTIMORE -- Steve McNair played only two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, yet the courage, determination and leadership he displayed during that time made a lasting impression on those within the organization.

McNair was shot and killed in Tennessee on Saturday. The news stunned some of his former teammates, who remembered the quarterback as a warrior on the football field and a friend in the locker room.

Ravens defensive back Samari Rolle, who played with McNair in Tennessee and Baltimore, said, "If you were going to draw a football player, the physical part, the mental part, everything about being a professional, he is your guy. It is a sad, sad day. The world lost a great man today."

McNair broke into the NFL with the Houston Oilers, who moved to Tennessee in 1997 and ultimately became the Tennessee Titans. McNair took the Titans to the 2000 Super Bowl, but by the end of the 2005 season, he sensed his time in Tennessee had run its course.

He asked his agent to work out a deal with the Ravens, and in June 2006, Tennessee traded McNair to Baltimore for a fourth-round pick in the 2007 draft.

"This is so, so sad," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who worked the trade with Tennessee. "What we admired most about Steve when we played against him was his competitive spirit, and we were lucky enough to have that with us for two years. He is one of the best players in the NFL over the last 20 years."

McNair played through a myriad of injuries with both the Titans and Ravens, but never lost the desire to win or love for the game.

"Steve was such a happy person," said Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason, who, like Rolle, played with McNair in Tennessee and Baltimore. "He was always smiling and was always willing to lend a hand to anyone who needed it. I've known him for 13 years, and he was the most selfless, happiest and friendliest person I have known.

"It is a devastating day. Steve will always have a place in my heart."

In his first season with Baltimore, McNair started all 16 games and led Baltimore to a 13-3 record and the AFC North title. But in his lone playoff game with the Ravens, he failed to produce a touchdown in a 15-6 loss to Indianapolis.

The following season, McNair was limited to only six games because of injuries. Baltimore went 2-4 in those games; McNair fumbled eight times, threw four interceptions and only two touchdown passes.

McNair wanted desperately to contribute, but his aching body wouldn't allow it.

"On the field, there isn't player that was as tough as him, especially at the quarterback position," Mason said. "What I have seen him play through on the field, and what he dealt with during the week to get ready for a game, I have never known a better teammate."

McNair retired in April 2008 with one year left on his contract with the Ravens.

"My mind was there. Mentally, I could go out and play," McNair said at an emotional news conference. "But physically, I couldn't do it anymore. Not to the capacity that I need to help my teammates win a football game."

That was McNair. It wasn't about putting up numbers, but about winning. Period.

"He was a great player," Newsome said, "one of the toughest of competitors, and a tremendous teammate, who was a leader on the field and in the locker room, especially to the young players."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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