Volek's injury forces Titans to look at O'Donnell
Posted: Tuesday December 16, 2003 9:52AM; Updated: Wednesday December 17, 2003 12:25AM
Billy Volek's lacerated spleen put an end to those plans.
McNair is nursing an injured ankle and right calf, but because Tennessee has yet to secure a playoff spot, he might be called upon against the Houston Texans on Sunday.
That's because Volek, a little-known backup, is out for the season after being hurt Sunday while leading the Titans to a 28-26 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
That leaves rookie Jason Gesser, signed as an undrafted free agent, as the only healthy option. Gesser has yet to play a down in the NFL.
So it looks as if the Titans (10-4) will turn to McNair, one of the NFL's most durable quarterbacks. He has played with injuries often during a streak of 43 straight starts that ended last week.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said it was too early Tuesday to say if McNair would start Sunday. But he said his star quarterback was willing, if not altogether healthy.
"The fact of the matter is Steve was ready last week, and he was wanting to play," Fisher said.
McNair received three hours of treatment Tuesday and was no longer wearing a protective boot on his left ankle.
Meanwhile, the Titans were negotiating with former backup quarterback Neil O'Donnell, a 13-year veteran who was cut after training camp but still has a home in Nashville. Fisher said O'Donnell was flying to Nashville on Tuesday to try to work out a contract.
"He's very interested in joining the club," Fisher said.
O'Donnell arrived at the Titans complex Tuesday night and said he was hopeful of reaching an agreement quickly.
"We'll sit down and hear what [the Titans] have to say," O'Donnell told WZTV of Nashville. "But it has to make sense for both sides."
O'Donnell said if he makes the trip to Houston he would be ready to play Sunday.
Volek played well in McNair's absence, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. The injury wasn't announced until Monday night, when Volek was hospitalized.
"After the game, he was on a high," said Volek's father, John. "Then on Monday morning, he let us know that he and Steve were going to practice, and that he still felt sore."
Fisher said doctors believe Volek will not need surgery to remove his spleen. He should be fully recovered in eight to 12 weeks, Fisher said.
Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck understands Volek's disappointment of being unable to help the team clinch a playoff spot. Tennessee can qualify for its fourth postseason berth in five years with a win or a loss by Baltimore, Cincinnati or Miami.
"He's playing behind the best QB in the NFL and he's waited for four years to get to start," he said. "I've waited, too, so I know the frustration."
O'Donnell, who hasn't played at all this season, started the six games McNair has missed since becoming starter in 1997.
O'Donnell, who started for Pittsburgh in the 1996 Super Bowl, went 4-1 in 1999 after McNair had back surgery, and he won a game against the Steelers in 2000 when a bruised chest kept McNair sidelined until the final drive.
But O'Donnell's biggest contribution in Tennessee may have been on the practice field last December. McNair played in games, but didn't practice for five weeks because of various injuries.
The Titans won all five games, and the team gave O'Donnell a game ball during the stretch for helping prepare the offense in McNair's absence.
The 37-year-old O'Donnell has been courted by several teams this season, and worked out for Green Bay in October.
But if an injured McNair is sent out to play against the Texans on Sunday, it won't surprise anyone.