NFL News of January 9, 2003

Steve McNair was asked on a national conference call this week about all the Tennessee Titans being snubbed for the Pro Bowl. It went right over the quarterback’s head.

…Keep it quiet, but there may not be a better quarterback left in the playoffs.

For sure, there is not a more overlooked one left, which is OK with the Titans.

…In the other AFC matchup, Oakland MVP quarterback Rich Gannon faces down the hottest young gun in the league, the Jets’ Chad Pennington. In the NFC, the headliner is the return of Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb from a broken ankle against the fastest quarterback in NFL history, Atlanta’s Michael Vick. For Tampa Bay, it’s the comeback of injured Brad Johnson vs. the 49ers’ comeback kid, Jeff Garcia.

McNair awaits his turn quietly.

…McNair played the last five games of the season without practice. A bruised rib hurt so much he had to take pain-killing shots to play. He was 5-0 in December, running his regular-season December-January record to 22-9.

…McNair and the Titans got off to a horrible 1-4 start but won 10 of their last 11 and enter the playoffs on the hottest streak. Against teams with winning records, McNair was 6-2. He rallied the Titans from three major second-half deficits–14 points against Philadelphia, 14 at Cincinnati, 12 at the New York Giants.

It was against the Giants on Dec. 1 that McNair didn’t know if he could play until minutes before kickoff. The aching ribs masked the toe and shin injuries.

Said Giants linebacker Micheal Barrow: “If he wasn’t going to play, it would have been a coach’s decision. They would have to tie him up in the locker room and hide his helmet because that joker is a warrior. He has the mentality of a linebacker playing quarterback. His toughness is unbelievable.”

— Don Pierson, The Chicago Tribune “Steve McNair a true weekend warrior”

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