Baltimore native puts aside hometown feelings

Titans Notebook

January 08, 2009|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,bill.ordine@baltsun.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee Titans backup safety Vincent Fuller vividly recalls how his loyalties were quite different the last time the Ravens were here for a playoff game. Fuller, a Baltimore native and Woodlawn High graduate, was a college freshman at Virginia Tech home for Christmas break.

"I was big-time Ravens," Fuller said. "Ever since they moved to Baltimore in 1995, I've been a Ravens fan. Even now when we get the [news] clips of other teams, Baltimore is one of the first teams I look at."

But Sunday, those hometown feelings won't mean a thing when he lines up for the Titans.

Actually, Fuller could find himself involved in some crucial plays. He's the nickel back who could cover Ravens leading receiver Derrick Mason on third-and-long. And in a game in which special teams could be huge in determining field position, Fuller will be the gunner, the key outside man, on punt coverage.

"Nickel is one of the more difficult positions on the field because when you come in, it's generally third down and you're the guy off the bench," Fuller said.

Fuller's career in Tennessee got off to a woeful start. In his rookie season, in just his second game - against the Ravens, of all teams - Fuller broke his right fibula on the opening kickoff.

Now, between special teams and the nickel package, Fuller, 6 feet 1, 190 pounds, is averaging 35 to 45 snaps a game. In 2007, he returned interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back games. This season, he twice tied for the team lead in passes defended.

New wrinkle not a worry

One thing different from the teams' Oct. 5 game is that the Ravens have installed their version of the "Wildcat" offense that uses two quarterbacks: starter Joe Flacco and backup Troy Smith.

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher seemed unfazed by the addition to the Ravens' arsenal.

"Well, we'll prepare for that against various opponents that have shown it on tape, and I feel like we have a pretty good feel for it," Fisher said. "They don't do it an awful lot, and if they do, then we'll be prepared for it."

Injury update

The two defensive lineman who have been a concern for the Titans -tackle Albert Haynesworth (knee) and end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) - practiced yesterday. The more pressing problem for Tennessee is center Kevin Mawae (elbow), who did not practice. He'll be replaced by Leroy Harris, who has just one career start.

Harris will have to take on Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, for whom the Titans voted in Pro Bowl balloting, Harris said.

"He's a great player. You saw in the last game on the first play, he launched the guy and made a tackle in the backfield," Harris said.

"So obviously, he's part of our focus - to keep him covered up because he's a big part of [stopping] the running game. If we don't keep him covered up and allow him to make tackles at the line of scrimmage and be a force back there, it's going to be a long day."

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