Young: I learned game on Titans' bench

Updated: November 19, 2009, 12:34 AM ET
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The moment every Titans fan expected finally happened, and they couldn't wait to see how Vince Young reacted.

Young had just been intercepted for the first time since returning as Tennessee's starting quarterback. He walked to the bench. No pouting, no helmet slam. Instead, Young just grabbed a cap and took a seat on the bench before bouncing back with his third straight victory.

So far, it sure looks like all that time as a backup resulted in a more mature -- and winning -- quarterback.

"I grew up a little bit," Young said.

The 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year has posted a passer rating of 90.4 or better in three straight games for the first time in his short career, and he is running effectively.

Coincidence or not, the Titans (3-6) are showing signs of life after the 0-6 start prompted owner Bud Adams to insist that coach Jeff Fisher start the quarterback Adams had watched through high school and college in Texas.

Nearly 14 months have passed since Young lost his job following the 2008 season opener, the game in which Young had to be coaxed back onto the field, upset over being booed for a second interception. A few plays later, he sprained his knee.

That was the start of a dramatic week in which Young skipped a scheduled exam, and Fisher wound up calling police to help find Young when the quarterback sped off in his Mercedes with a gun in the car. Young called the incident the result of a worried mother. But veteran Kerry Collins remained the starter as the Titans started 10-0.

Since then, Young's sideline behavior has been a hot topic in Nashville.

Fans speculated he stayed busy listening to his iPod when he monitored play calls through an earpiece; measured the distance between Young and Collins when talking with offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger; and even where he sat during games.

Through it all, Fisher insisted Young was the Titans' franchise quarterback and that the No. 3 overall pick in 2006 was busy learning.

"He's making the decisions and changing the plays on the line of scrimmage and doing what we expect the quarterback to do," Fisher said of Young. "The position's hard enough to play, and he's playing it well right now. We just have to keep it going."

Some of Young's teammates didn't sound enthusiastic when he returned as the starter, pointing out the big difference between practice and games. Young sounds as if he understands his challenge.

"I put my teammates first, and I'm behind everything else. I want to keep working and impressing them and earning their confidence and respect from them guys," he said.

Numbers help.

Young is 21-11 in his four NFL seasons, and he can win his eighth straight game as a starter Monday night when the Titans visit his hometown, Houston. In his three starts, he is 44 of 62 for 469 yards with two touchdowns and the lone interception. He has been sacked just once and has run 22 times for 73 yards and another TD.

Houston cornerback Dunta Robinson said the Titans have eased Young back into the offense, especially with Chris Johnson leading the NFL in rushing.

"When you've got a running game that is clicking and working the way that running game is, you shouldn't have to ask any quarterback to do too much," Robinson said. "He's coming in and he's managing the game pretty well. He's making the throws he's supposed to make, and they're handing the ball off to Chris Johnson, and he's making the difference."

Collins had Johnson, too, but Young's mobility allows him to move around and buy time. Young said he is working hard with Heimerdinger, and the result has been a variety of quarterback draws, scrambles, throwing on the run and even the option.

Young also has organized his private life to focus on work. He used to come in from practice and find his cell phone demanding his attention. This is the quarterback who had a brief reality show his rookie season, talked of how he stayed busy playing Santa, and dived into charity work with his own foundation.

"Now I have all of that structure-wise right. I don't have to worry about that. All I have to do is play football now," Young said.

He also had to deal with the murder of his mentor, Steve McNair, in July. Young said at the funeral he would be there for McNair's sons as the NFL veteran had been there for Young. Trenton and Tyler McNair watched as Young led the 41-17 win last weekend over the Bills.

"My confidence level is a tremendous high," Young said.

"As I have been sitting back and watching and learning the game of football as a quarterback the things you need to do. That is all I have been doing, just being ready and the preparation is the biggest key right now."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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