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McNair shows his toughness again

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2003


NASHVILLE -- Several players were hurt Saturday, but the grisliest scene involved Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair.

Doctors cut away some flesh hanging off his right thumb near the end of regulation. Then he returned and drove Tennessee down the field to set up the winning field goal.

"What can you say about our quarterback?" Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "I can't tell you how his hand is right now. I'm afraid to find out. He's got a chunk of skin ripped off the top of his thumb, and he couldn't grip the ball."

McNair said he bruised his thumb and cut it open when his hand slammed against a helmet: "I was frustrated and mad. The coach knew I wanted to be in there. I just bit the bullet."

The Titans turned to backup Neil O'Donnell for two plays. Then McNair came back.

"He said, 'Hey, I'm going to finish this game,' " Fisher said.

Titans running back Eddie George played one play in the second half because of a concussion. Fisher said cornerback Andre Dyson may need surgery on his right shoulder, and left guard Zach Piller aggravated a calf injury.

FEELING THE BURDEN: Dewayne Washington couldn't do anything right in overtime.

He was beaten twice by receiver Justin McCareins to put the Titans into field-goal range on their decisive drive.

Washington followed that with his biggest miscue: a penalty for running into the kicker that gave Joe Nedney a second chance.

"It's really tough right now," Washington said. "It's hard for me not to feel the burden of losing the game for us."

Nedney hooked a 31-yard field goal in overtime, but Washington bumped into Nedney and referee Ron Blum threw a flag.

Washington said he and Nedney made "a little" contact, but it shouldn't have been a penalty.

"Obviously he gave the fake fall at the end," Washington said.

OFFICIALS' WOES: A week after a noncall ended the Giants' season, officials again had a questionable performance.

After Pittsburgh challenged whether Titans punt returner Derrick Mason's knee was down on a fourth-quarter play, Blum announced the challenge, but declared to the crowd, "I don't think that is a challengeable play."

After checking with his replay assistant, Blum verified the play was reviewable. Blum ruled Mason's knee was down at the Tennessee 41 and negated a gain on the return to the Pittsburgh 30. A penalty on Pittsburgh, however, nullified the play and the Steelers punted again.

"He told me it wasn't a reviewable call," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said. "The only thing at least he did do was call up to the booth to find out if it was a reviewable call. Thank goodness somebody in the stadium knew the rules."

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