Titans wanting to earn ‘stripes’
Posted: Friday, September 12, 2008 9:12 pm
By: By JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — After a midweek practice, the receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson loosened one of the straps on his protective shoulder harness with a disdainful tug.
“I really wish they’d let me take this thing off because it’s getting in the way,” he said, moving his left shoulder freely once the brace was loosened. “Seriously, it’s getting in the way. It’s hampering my performance. It’s just in the way. I don’t want it on me.”
He may want to keep it for at least one more week.
The Tennessee Titans are coming to town with a determination not to let the Pro Bowl receiver embarrass them again. When they played last season in Cincinnati, the Bengals receiver had a career day featuring an over-the-top touchdown celebration.
The Titans remember how Ocho Cinco rubbed it in.
“Definitely, we’re looking forward to playing the Bengals and ‘Oucho’ Cinco this week,” Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “We’re aware of his shoulder. He has a little ‘owie.’ We definitely send that message to him.”
Since he briefly dislocated his left shoulder in the second preseason game, Ocho Cinco has worn the harness, designed to limit his movement while the shoulder heals. With or without it, he’ll be the target of a defense still smarting from the last time they met.
He had a career-high 12 catches for 103 yards and three touchdowns last Nov. 25 in a 35-6 win that represented the Titans’ most one-sided loss of the season. After his first touchdown, the receiver commandeered a television camera behind the end zone, drawing a penalty for his celebration.
The Titans don’t want any replays.
“I’m probably not going to get the same looks I got last year,” the receiver said. “I’m sure they’re going to make it a lot more difficult, a lot more complicated for us as an offense, including myself.”
For the Titans, it’s not only a good test of their pass coverage. They’ll see how the offense looks without quarterback Vince Young, who sprained his left knee in a 17-10 win over Jacksonville and is sidelined indefinitely. Young was booed before he got hurt, and questions about his emotional well-being and his whereabouts consumed the early part of Tennessee’s week.
While Young dealt with the injury, quarterback Kerry Collins got ready for the only team he has never faced during his 14-year career. Collins doesn’t run like Young, but expects the Titans to stay true to form in his absence.
“We believe in running the ball here, and I know that’s part of every game plan that I’ve been part of here,” said Collins, who played in six games last season.
The 35-year-old quarterback is likely to let rookie running back Chris Johnson do most of the work. Johnson ran for 93 yards in his debut last Sunday, and will be facing a defense that gave up 229 yards on the ground in Baltimore.
“I don’t think we’ll be making a living out of quarterback draws and things like that, but Kerry can do different things with the ball,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s in great shape. He worked hard in the offseason. He lost weight. He’s running around. He does not look or play to his age right now. He appears to be four or five years younger.”
The Bengals look like their old selves. An offense that scored five touchdowns against the Titans last November has managed only nine in the six games since.
A fumble return accounted for their only touchdown in a 17-10 loss in Baltimore last Sunday that was a low point.
The Bengals had the ball 12 times and managed only eight first downs. Carson Palmer threw for 99 yards, and Cincinnati was held to 154 yards overall, a stunningly bad performance for an offense that ranked among the league’s best the last few years.
“We’ve all seen it on film,” Palmer said. “It’s one of those film sessions where you just feel sick. You’re healthy, but you feel sick to your stomach just watching it.”
One of the keys on Sunday will be whether the Titans have defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who was sidelined by a hamstring injury when the teams played in November. Haynesworth got a mild concussion in the opener and sat out practices during the week.
If he plays, the Bengals expect to see a much different defense than the last time around.
A victory would move the Titans to 2-0 for the first time since 1999, when they won their first three games and made the only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
A loss would drop the Bengals to 0-2 for the first time since 2003, when coach Marvin Lewis arrived and stirred optimism that things had changed.
An 0-2 would say emphatically that they haven’t.
“I think we’re going to do well this year,” Pro Bowl receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. “I’ve always thought that. Eventually we’ll have to go out there and show it.”