He still remembers marveling at how technically sound Antoine Winfield was in practice drills. Winfield would perform the cone drills to perfection. As a young mid-round draft choice from a small school Terrence McGee was just hoping to earn a roster spot out of training camp. Now he's just hoping his surgically repaired knee is ready so he can show he still deserves that roster spot he first earned in 2003.
"I'm shooting for training camp," McGee told Buffalobills.com of his return to full participation. "So hopefully I'll be 100 percent and be able to go out there and compete for a job."
For a veteran cornerback that's played in more NFL games (115) than six of the seven other cornerbacks on the roster combined, the phrase 'competing for a job' might sound odd. But Buffalo is experiencing a youth movement at cornerback with four drafted in the last two years and Drayton Florence released earlier this month.
Add in McGee's troublesome injury history and one realizes how realistic the nine-year veteran is about his situation. McGee has been able to start just 19 of the last 48 games from 2009-2011. Shoulder and knee injuries along with a lingering nerve problem looked to be behind him before a hamstring injury on the first play of the 2011 season robbed him of his return to the lineup.
That was followed by the worst injury of his career in Week 11 at Miami. A torn patellar tendon. He had surgery in November, but recovery time to resume normal athletic activity is typically four to six months. Being ready for a competitive camp setting will take longer.
"I'm doing a lot of the stuff that the guys are doing as far as our workouts go," he said. "I'm not as limited as I was, but I'm sure I'm not where I need to be to go out there and compete and keep a job or anything. I've still got a ways to go."
McGee can perform the movements required of a cornerback, just not at the normal tempo of OTA practices let alone game speed. Just like any rehab process he's had his good days and bad. What's been the most difficult to deal with is the length of time this particular injury has taken.
"It's never been this long for me," he said. "I had surgery in November so it's going to be June and I still don't feel ready. I've never been through something like this. I had surgery on my shoulder, but it was just a couple of months and this is a much longer wait and it's getting closer to training camp so your mind does wonder if you're going to make the deadline."
As the elder statesman of the cornerback group younger players have come to him from time to time, seeking knowledge about the game. McGee provides answers when he can, but setting an example in practice like Winfield did for him nine years ago isn't an option right now.
Quiet by nature, McGee never asked questions when he was a rookie. He just watched Winfield and took mental notes, then learned from his own mistakes. That might be considered a big risk now, but nine years later McGee is still here. He's just hoping his knee allows him to make it 10.
"The only thing that's important is showing that I can still play," he said. "Coming out here and proving I can still do it. All I can do is work hard and hope and pray that everything works out at the end."