Wearing hearts on their sleeves

McNair jerseys dot stands as fans still revere ex-Titans QB

Setting the Scene

Ravens 27 Titans 26

Ravens Gameday

November 13, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun Reporter

Nashville, Tenn. -- For the first time, Dennis Carter covered his Tennessee Titans hoodie.

But for good reason: The 21-year-old resident of nearby Murpheysville wore a Steve McNair jersey over the hoodie. That Carter even wore a jersey was surprising.

"I just don't really wear jerseys," said Carter, who wore the No. 9 jersey to yesterday's Ravens game against Tennessee for the first time in four years. "But Steve's a good guy, and everybody else is wearing them in respect to Steve. So I'm supporting Steve, too."

Almost universally, McNair is still revered by Titans fans, who remember his leadership during the team's run to the Super Bowl in January 2000, his play en route to sharing NFL Most Valuable Player honors with the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning and his tolerance for pain.

"He was our warrior," said Nashville native Will Hagan, who had a copy of the Titans' sword tattooed to his left arm several months ago. "He always played hurt. Him and [running back] Eddie George and [tight end] Frank Wycheck were the leaders in that locker room."

Several fans who decried the departure of McNair placed the blame squarely on the Titans' front office. While acknowledging the difficult decisions the front office was forced to make to get under the league-imposed salary cap, Chris Slayden said club officials should not have barred McNair from the team's practice facility while the two sides were trying to hammer out a renegotiated deal.

"That was horrible," Slayden said. "I hope he comes here and makes the front office regret what they did to him."

To be fair, the Titans franchise did honor McNair's return by presenting a video montage of the former quarterback before the game.

Although a few booed when McNair took the field with the rest of the Ravens, the cheers drowned out the jeers, and No. 9 Titans jerseys dotted the stands.

That didn't surprise Penny Kennedy, a lifelong Titans fan who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Hall of Fans in 2001 under the nickname "Queen Titan."

"I think you'll see more No. 9 jerseys than anyone else in the stands," Kennedy said before the game. "People are still wearing them here."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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