Mason, Rolle all business on return to Tennessee

Ravens: The two ex-Titans are putting personal feelings aside and are focused solely on winning Sunday's game.

September 16, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

After hearing that his former team, the Tennessee Titans, was blown out by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason recalled his reaction to the news as being indifferent. A few days later, his apathy turned to slight disappointment, but not for the obvious reason.

"I wanted them to win because Pittsburgh is in the division," Mason said.

And that, according to Mason, was the only reason. Mason and cornerback Samari Rolle, two cornerstones of the Titans' franchise in the past, will make their returns to the city they represented in a Super Bowl six seasons ago.

The trip, by both players' estimations, is about business.

"I'm just concentrating on playing," Rolle said. "I'm not going down there to shake hands and for hugs. It's basically trying to win the game."

It is a coldhearted but understandable way to approach the Ravens-Tennessee game for the ex-Titans. Players change teams frequently in the NFL, but few have left imprints on franchises as much as Mason and Rolle.

Last season, Mason had 96 receptions, second in the NFL, and also hauled in seven touchdown passes. In his eight years in Tennessee, Mason led the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns the last four seasons.

During that four-year stretch, Mason's 343 receptions accounted for 27 percent of the team's total. His 453 total catches rank fifth on the franchise's all-time list.

He was quarterback Steve McNair's go-to guy on the field while showcasing a clean image the team promoted off the field.

"They were very productive and key components during our successful years," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of Mason and Rolle. "So it was difficult [losing them]."

For Sunday, not having Rolle stands to be the bigger loss for the Titans. The top four cornerbacks in Tennessee's secondary have a combined 13 career starts; by contrast, Rolle has 87. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger posted a perfect quarterback rating against the Titans, completing two touchdown passes.

Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke glowingly in the past about Rolle, whose presence he once said allowed his team to blitz more. But now, after a solid game in which Rolle gave up no big plays to the Indianapolis Colts when he was in man-to-man coverage, that attribute belongs solely to the Ravens.

Rolle led the Titans franchise in interceptions in four of his seven seasons (second all time only to Darryll Lewis), and Rolle's 23 interceptions are 11th best in franchise history. It is the best mark since the team left Houston in 1997 and moved to Tennessee.

"Samari was a great player for us, and he'll continue to be a great player," McNair said. "To see him on the other side of the ball is going to be very hard to swallow."

Rolle does not know if he will be cheered or booed, and he says he doesn't really care. It was not his decision to leave - both he and Mason were released for salary cap purposes - so he thinks the fans have nothing to be upset at him for.

Neither is Rolle bitter at the organization. He and Mason say that, besides getting the victory, they're not trying to prove anything to their former employer in this homecoming.

"Us going down there isn't going to change anything that happened," Rolle said. "It's not going to bring us back. I think Derrick and myself like it here. And everything happens for a reason. We're happy to be here."

NOTE: Terrell Suggs (back) and Deion Sanders (thigh) returned to practice yesterday. All of the players on the team's injury report practiced with the exception of Kyle Boller (toe), who is out for Sunday's game.

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