Broncos release top rusher Willis McGahee

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Upon his return for the Broncos‘ mandatory minicamp Tuesday, McGahee said he skipped the OTAs for family reasons, insisted he would still be the starter come September and suggested that missing those 10 workouts didn’t put him at a decided disadvantage by giving the youngsters a head start.

“I probably would have been behind the 8-ball either way,” he said. “Younger group. Just being real, right?”

Now he’ll be looking to carry the ball for someone else.

The 11-year veteran who was set to make $2.5 million in 2013 should draw interest across the league. Although he’s pushing 32, he’s doesn’t have the wear and tear that would be expected of a running back who has been in the league a decade because he spent much of his career sharing snaps.

He played in Buffalo from 2003-06 and Baltimore from 2007-10 before joining the Broncos for an eventful two seasons in which he was an integral part of the Tim Tebow experiment and then the Peyton Manning comeback tour.

McGahee, who became one of the NFL’s most dependable runners despite tearing all the ligaments in his left knee during his last game for the University of Miami, tore the medial collateral ligament and suffered a compression fracture to his right knee in a game against San Diego last November and missed the rest of the year. Still, he led the team with 731 yards rushing.

McGahee said this week he wasn’t bothered by the Broncos selecting another running back high in the draft, suggesting, “I’m a different breed. I can block, I can run, I can get the tough yards. Everybody can’t do that.”

He also said he had been medically cleared to participate fully at practice, declaring, “I’m healthy. I’m clear. No problems. I can run,” and he said he felt he still had plenty of football left in him, especially with the way the rules severely limit padded practices now.

His teammates had figured McGahee would be back with them for some of those practices when training camp opens next month and were stunned to see his empty chair in the running backs meeting room.

“I mean he’s a guy that you look up to being in the league for a very long time and he’s still capable of doing the things that he was doing six years ago,” Hillman said. “So I’m pretty sure he’ll get picked up again. But it’s a sad day for me because he was a real mentor to me.”


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