By Terry McCormick, Correspondent
NASHVILLE — A familiar face was on the practice field at Baptist Sports Park as the Tennessee Titans closed training camp Wednesday, as Steve McNair paid a visit to his former club.
It was McNair's first trip back to Baptist Sports Park since a grievance hearing in 2006 after the club had locked him out of its practice facility not wanting to risk an injury that would have put the Titans on the hook for McNair's $23.4 million cap figure at the time.
“It's the first time. I was scared to come through (the door),” McNair joked with the media on hand.
The quarterback, who retired in April, was in Nashville to spread the word about the Steve McNair Retirement Celebration, which is scheduled for Oct. 31 aboard the General Jackson Showboat.
McNair, a first-round pick of the Houston Oilers in 1995, said he has let bygones be bygones regarding his exit from Tennessee. He eventually won the grievance the NFL Players Association filed on his behalf, and was eventually traded to the Baltimore Ravens, where he played the final two seasons of his career.
“Personally, it wasn't about burying the hatchet. I love the organization, but it was just a business move. You can't mix personal things with business. It was a business decision. I accepted that, and we moved on,” McNair said. “They gave me an opportunity to play 11 years and take care of my family. I don't have any animosity toward this organization, especially the coaching staff, because the coaching staff is just like family.”
McNair said that unlike his buddy Brett Favre, he has no desire to play football again. He said the itch to play won't tempt him.
“I scratched mine. If I get the itch, I go ahead and scratch it. … Mentally, I could still go out and play the game, but my body just wasn't able to. And I just didn't want to come back because of that.”
McNair stays in touch with current Titans quarterback Vince Young, whom Young calls, “Pops” and considers a mentor.
McNair's advice to Young regarding the criticism and growing pains of being an NFL quarterback was simple.
“The thing about it is, you've got to take the good with the bad. You can't get caught up in the good things, and you can't get down about bad things,” McNair said.
He also believes that Mike Heimerdinger, back for a second tour of duty, can help Young the way he helped McNair's career to take off en route to a co-MVP season.
“I told him what Mike expects out of a player, and what you can expect out of Mike,” McNair said “Mike is a guy that is going to put you in good position to be successful. You just have to go out there and put your mindset to believe in what he's trying to accomplish.”
Money raised at the Steve McNair Retirement Celebration will support the Steve McNair Foundation, the Charles Davis Foundation, the Mississippi Center for Autism and Related Development Disabilities and the Hope Foundation. For ticket information on the event, call (228) 255-8500.
As training camp ended Wednesday afternoon, rookies were subjected to the annual dizzy bat race. Two rookies who couldn't take part because of injuries, however, were subjected to something much worse.
Rookie receiver Lavelle Hawkins, out with a sprained ankle, and cornerback Cary Williams, nursing a sore quadriceps, were taped to a light pole, thanks to Keith Bulluck, Albert Haynesworth and Rob Bironas.
After they were secured with about 10 to 12 rolls of tape, the veterans then sprayed them with mustard, mayonnaise, honey, chocolate syrup, baby powder and flour on them, covering them in a nasty mess, just as a steady rain began to fall.
“I pretty much knew that was going to happen to me sooner or later. I knew I was going to get it the worst,” Hawkins said.
Bulluck explained that “We were trying to make a cake. Albert added the flour and the water. We didn't have any eggs. We added the honey and the chocolate syrup, and Albert came out of left field with the ketchup, the mustard and the mayonnaise.”
Williams said the smell was the worst part of the hazing.
“It had a disgusting, rank smell. It was nasty. It gets in your eyes and ears, and you just want to cry like a baby, but it's all in good fun,” he said.
Williams to make debut
After testing his ankle again this week in practice, Roydell Williams could make his preseason debut Friday against the Falcons, provided the field turf there does aggravate the mending right ankle.
“It could be two or three series, or it could be four or five series. We'll get him through the warm-ups and play him as long as we can,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
Williams said he wants to give it a go this week after no game action since surgery in January.
“I don't really know what it is, but I'm at the point right now, where I've just got to push through the pain and just get to that next level,” Williams said. “So far, it's been working out well for me. Every day, I've been running better and cutting a little better. I've just got to continue working and progressing.”
Williams still has a bit of a limp sometimes as he runs.
“Man, when (the ankle) hurts, I'm limping out there. I'll run a couple of plays, and it'll hurt, and then I'll sit out a couple of plays, and it'll calm down, and I'll go back out,” Williams said.
He said his left ankle suffered a similar fracture while he was at Tulane his junior year and also had to have a plate and screws placed in it.
“I've been through an ankle injury before, so I kind of know the ends and outs. It's a different ankle, but the same bone,” Williams said.
Fisher said the Titans decided that it would be best to activate Williams from the PUP list when they did. Had they left him there he would have missed a minimum of six weeks in the regular season.
“We anticipated that he would be able to do things in training camp. He was one of our top receivers last year, and if you PUP him, then you don't have him for six weeks.” Fisher said.
Several players wont play against the Falcons, including kicker Rob Bironas (groin), defensive back Chris Carr (shoulder), Bulluck (calf), Hawkins (ankle), tackle David Stewart (knee). Fisher did not list Cary Williams as definitely out, though he has not practiced all week.
Haynesworth (soreness) also missed a second straight day of work.
E-mail Terry McCormick at firstname.lastname@example.org