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AFC / TENNESSEE at OAKLAND / CHAMPIONSHIP GAME / SUNDAY,
3:30 P.M., CHANNEL 2 | AFC NOTES

McNair Sits Again, Still Plans to Play

January 18, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND — Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair sat out of practice Friday for the third consecutive day because his coaches were concerned he might aggravate his turf-toe condition. He did throw the ball with trainers, however, as he did Thursday.

"He threw today, he threw without incident, he threw very well," Coach Jeff Fisher said. "That was good to see."

The Titans worked out Friday morning in their practice bubble because of snowy conditions outside, then flew to Oakland in the afternoon. Had they been able to practice outside, McNair probably would have participated. He missed the first two practices this week because of a bruised thumb on his throwing hand.

Earlier this week, McNair guaranteed he would play Sunday against the Raiders.

"I threw very well today," McNair said. "The wrap is just for the swelling I still have in it, but overall it's improving. I'm looking forward to each and every day for it to get better. This is something I think I can deal with. It's always going to be a factor, but mentally I'm ready."

He proved last month he doesn't need to practice to be effective. He sat out the entire month of December because of an injury to his ribs and back tightness. He played in games, though, and the Titans went 5-0 during that stretch.

Tennessee defensive end Jevon Kearse was the only Titan not to participate at all in practice Friday, instead resting his foot, lifting weights and swimming. He suffered a broken left foot in the opener.

Fisher said he expects Kearse to play 20 to 25 plays against the Raiders.

"We held him back purposely this week," he said. "We anticipate him warming up [on Sunday], doing well in warmups, and being out there ready to play."

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Raider receiver Jerry Rice, a longtime 49er, said he wasn't surprised this week when San Francisco fired coach Steve Mariucci.

"It just goes to show that everyone is expendable," said Rice, who was released by the team after the 2000 season. "When you look at it, you look at Bill Walsh, three titles, you look at George Seifert, two titles, and Mooch, he didn't have any.

"With the Niners, it's not about just getting into the playoffs. That's not good enough. You've got to be able to win the whole thing. I feel like they felt like maybe he's not the guy to take them the whole way, so he was expendable."

Asked if firing Mariucci was the right thing to do, Rice said: "That's not for me to say. I could say there's no way they should have gotten rid of me. But, hey, I was expendable. That just goes to show you that coaches are expendable too."

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When Tennessee played Oakland on Sept. 29 and lost, 52-25, to fall to 1-3, things looked bleak.

But a 31-14 home loss to the lowly Washington Redskins the next week really took things to a low.

After that game, Bud Adams publicly wondered whether Fisher was getting outcoached.

"We weren't startled at all," running back Eddie George said of the reaction to Adams' comments. "Pretty much, not only his job was in question but a lot of jobs were in question around here. So we just had to buckle down, win some games and see what happens."

Since then, the Titans have won 11 of 12.

Tennessee has won games in just about every way imaginable: High-scoring shootouts (34-31 in overtime over Pittsburgh last week), late comebacks (32-29 in overtime over the Giants), boring blowouts (28-10 over Jacksonville) and even on days when they weren't playing their best (13-3 over Houston).

"We just have more confidence now," Titan safety Lance Schulters said. "We're borderline cocky. We feel like we can't lose. Coming back from 1-4, I mean, who would have thought it?"

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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