The Tennessee Titans’ reception in Houston won’t be a friendly one on Monday night, but the one native son Vince Young receives, well, that’s a little bit different.
Young was a high school star in Houston and led the Texas Longhorns to their first national championship in more than three decades. So not even wearing the colors of a franchise that bolted from town now 13 years ago is enough for Houston fans to paint Young as the villain.
That much was evident by the cheering three years ago when he made his return home and capped a Titans victory with a 39-yard touchdown run in overtime.
Young’s popularity in many ways supersedes the Texans, in a similar way to how Peyton Manning was received early in his NFL career by Titans fans who remembered his exploits as a Volunteer.
“Being a Houstonian, being a hometown kid, there’s a lot of Longhorn fans out there, and a lot of fans period that have pretty much been following my career since high school on up to now. It’s just a lot of love, no disrespect to the Texans,” Young said.
“You’ve gotta think, half the stadium is going to be in No. 10 Texas jerseys,” said fullback Ahmard Hall, who joking called Young the “Mayor of Houston.”
Monday night will be the first time Young has started since that phenomenal finish in his rookie year, something he called the “second biggest” play of his career, behind only his TD run that sealed the Rose Bowl. He was injured and gave way to Kerry Collins in the ’07 game at Reliant Stadium, and had been demoted to second-string behind Collins last year.
Teammates know how much Monday night’s game will mean to Young.
“I know him being from Houston, he’ll be happy to play at home with a lot of his friends and family able to watch. We basically need to go out there and get this win for Vince,” running back Chris Johnson said. “He’s going to be fired up regardless. It’s going to be his first time starting in a while down in Houston. So he’s going to be fired up to go down there and get a win.”
Young, donning a Houston Oilers cap for his weekly press conference on Thursday, said he is also taking a different approach to all the ticket requests for this year’s game.
“This year, I didn’t do a lot. I had a close friend of mine that got a [luxury] box for my family. So most of my family will be in the box,” Young said.
Linebacker Keith Bulluck said his and his teammates reaction to seeing video of owner Bud Adams middle finger salutes at the end of the Buffalo game on Sunday was the same as everyone else – funny.
“It’s the same reaction as everybody. You just laugh. I was kind of done in sport. It was done in fun,” Bulluck said. “I’m sure everybody that has seen it has laughed at it. At the end of the day, in all seriousness, the NFL has to do what they have to do. But for entertainment purposes, that was very entertaining.”
Bulluck said he didn’t hold it against Adams, who was fined $250,000 by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for the actions.
“Owning a team for 50 years and going through everything that Mr. Adams has gone through, it’s all right to flip a couple of birds here and there,” Bulluck said. “I’m sure it wasn’t his first time. It was just the first time he got caught.”
Going in reverse
A couple of weeks after saying he would buy cars for his offensive linemen if he reached 2,000 yards, running back Chris Johnson sounded a bit more hesitant to follow through on Thursday.
“It’s a goal of mine. It’s a real goal of the offensive line, because I told them that if I get 2,000 yards, I’d buy them all cars. So they’re really trying to do that,” Johnson told three reporters on Nov. 4.
But on Thursday, Johnson was asked again and replied, “I never promised any cars. I said the offensive line wanted cars, if I got 2,000 yards. But I never promised them anything like that,” Johnson said. “I don’t know. I’ve got to think of something nice. I gave them 55-inch flat screen TVs last year. I’m sure I’ve got to do something better than TVs.”
Johnson, who leads the NFL with 1,091 yards rushing, was asked if there was anyone who could stop him, and replied, “I think I’m unstoppable. I’ve got great confidence. I just go in there and expect to do well every time I step on the field.”
Cornerback Nick Harper was cleared for contact last week, and now is healthy enough to not be listed on the Titans injury report for the week.
“We’re hoping he gets back on the field and resumes his starting position,” Fisher said. “I think he’s got a chance.”
Receiver Justin Gage missed practice with a back injury, and is much better, according to Fisher, and has not been ruled out for Monday night.
Linebacker Colin Allred did not practice because of a hamstring injury, and linebacker David Thornton was rested with a hip injury.
Safety Kevin Kaesviharn was out of practice after his wife gave birth to their third child on Tuesday.
Defensive tackle Jason Jones was limited with a shoulder problem.