Return to sender
Titans' Derrick Mason is on a returning roll
Posted: Friday January 28, 2000 03:09 PM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
ATLANTA -- There is not a better time to be warming up than right now, right here at the Super Bowl.
And, for once in this freaking Frigidaire of a city, we're not talking weather. No, we're talking hot, as in racin', as in Derrick Mason, Tennessee's kick-returner extraordinaire. He is simply sizzling.
"If I'm going to peak," said the jet-quick one, "this is the time to peak. Right now, we're on a roll."
Super Bowls have been won before with good kick returns, and this game has two guys who can be the next to do it. The Titans' opponents in Super Bowl XXXIV, the St. Louis Rams, have the NFL's leading kick returner in Tony Horne, who averaged 29.7 yards a kickoff return during the season and ran two back for touchdowns.
Mason averaged 19.6 yards a kickoff this season, without a touchdown -- though he did run back a punt for a score.
Horne has been awesome in the postseason, too, averaging 35.3 yards a kickoff return with one touchdown. But Mason has been even hotter, returning eight kicks for an average of 39.4 yards per. Last week he salted away the AFC title game against Jacksonville with an 80-yard touchdown return off a free kick.
"I'm just more confident in what I'm doing. In the early part of the season, I had a knee brace [he tore some cartilage in his knee]," Mason said. "Just coming back when I didn't have to wear the brace ... that's just given me a lot more confidence."
The kickoff return may be the most exciting play in all football. When Mason snagged the low-hanging free kick last week, he froze Jacksonville's Jason Craft with a stutter-type step, then simply took off. He was hit, but barely. The touchdown gave Tennessee a 12-point lead that never was challenged in an eventual 33-14 win.
"It really happened so fast," Mason said. "I saw him coming at me, and I was just determined to get it in. He was coming down so hard, I just figured I'd freeze him just that once. I'd give him that one-step freeze, and that's what I did.
"I hit that hole and he was left standing there."
Now, The Glance isn't saying that Mason will make the difference Sunday. Horne could change the game just as easily. Or both could make no noise at all.
But, if Mason breaks out, remember: You read it here first.
On to The Glance, which riddles you this: Are y'all ready for some football yet?
The answer: We don't know about you, but in their final mass dealing with the mass media on Thursday, the players certainly looked like they were fed up with this week.
| Heaters |
Ooooooo, it was toasty Thursday in the tent outside the Titans' team hotel. The tent, remember, was the site of Wednesday's Ice Bowl, where players were not only forced to sit in sub-freezing temperatures, but they forced to answer questions from blue-lipped scribes who were so cold they couldn't drink the free orange juice. The Titans complained, the NFL brought in a few more heaters and -- voila! -- all the orange juice was gone.
| Can I get a witness? |
Outside of the weather, one of the big themes of the week has been religion, which means Isaac Bruce has been getting quoted a lot. He's the one who claimed that, if the late Charlotte Hornets guard Bobby Phills cried out for the Lord in his car wreck, he might have been spared. It worked, Bruce said, with him.
| Domed in |
Given the nasty forecast -- snow Thursday night, cold throughout the weekend -- the NFL has decided to move Friday's practices into the Georgia Dome, where you can stay a lot warmer while blowing out your knee on the artificial turf. The Titans go first, followed by the Rams. The NFL owners who voted for Atlanta as host city, meanwhile, are said to be fining themselves for the choice. Al Davis is abstaining.
| Parties |
The NFL Experience, that pretend-I'm-a-jock commercial for the league, is going full bore now. The players' party, a real commercial for a video game company, is about to go. Puffy Combs' joint is party central, and there are all sorts of other private parties going on around town. Are the chips and dips ready for your shindig?
| Flattery -- The players: |
Given all the hassle involved -- and, remember, opening a car door is a hassle for lots of these guys -- players on both teams have been remarkably well-behaved and well-mannered this week. They are about at the end of their rope, but so far ...
| Flattery -- The NFL: |
We mock them over the well-oily -- sorry, that's well-oiled -- machine that has become the Super Bowl. But for an event of this magnitude, there really are amazingly few blips.
| Flattery -- Isaac Bruce: |
You may not agree with the guy and what some see as proselytizing, but you have to appreciate a man who sticks to his convictions.
| Flattery -- Bud Adams: |
He knows when he's got a good thing going. "I want to sign him to a new big contract," Adams said of coach Jeff Fisher.
| Flag -- The local economy: |
Sure, a few million will flow through Atlanta's economy because of the Supie. But, because of the dip in temperatures this week, it won't be as much as everyone expected. Simply put, who wants to go out in this?
| If you took a vote in this press room, right now, on whether Super Bowl XXXIV should be moved up to Saturday, the "yeas" would win 6-to-1. |
| If you took that same vote among the players, it might be 7-to-1 for. Coaches, though, would defeat the measure resoundingly. |
| There are a lot of strange owners in the NFL. Not pointing fingers. Just making an observation. |
| How do these guys have time to play ping pong? |
| 1.) The Rams didn't play a game this year in temperatures under 65 degrees. |
| 2.) But it doesn't matter, 'cause this one's indoors. |
| 3.) Face value for tickets for Super Bowl XXXIV is $325 and $400. |
| Answers below. |
| Our daily look at a key position in Sunday's Super Bowl |
| The DEs -- Jevon Kearse, Tennessee and Kevin Carter, St. Louis . Carter led the NFL in sacks this season, with 17. Kearse set a rookie record, with 14.5. Even Carter marvels at Kearse's athletic ability. But Carter, 6-foot-5 and 280, is obviously no slouch. It's up to Kearse to disrupt the finely tuned Rams' passing game. It's up to Carter to put pressure on Titans QB Steve McNair, but still keep him in the pocket. |
| "Are you getting tired of all these questions?" |
| The gameplans are in, and now the refining starts. Friday will be the last intense day of practice -- and it'll be strange, considering it will be in the Georgia Dome because of the weather. Teams will do little more than a walkthrough on Saturday, and then ... |
T-F answers: 1.) Not true. It was a nippy 54 in Philly in Week 17. 2.) Yeah, OK, we'll grant you that. 3.) True. And if you can get one for that, let us know where you got them.
Visit Multimedia Central for the latest audio and video
|Search our site
||Watch CNN/SI 24 hours a day
||Sports Illustrated and CNN have combined to form a 24 hour sports news and information channel. To receive CNN/SI at your home call your cable operator or DirecTV.
Copyright © 2000|
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.