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George's availability in doubt


Steve McNair is back at quarterback, but the Tennessee Titans may play without Eddie George in the starting lineup for the first time since George joined the team in 1996.

"It's unlikely Eddie will practice much this week. We'll just have to wait and see," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Tuesday, following a 34-7 loss Monday night in Pittsburgh, where George suffered a hyperextended knee, a deep thigh contusion and re-sprained his right ankle.

"He is very sore and you have to consider this at some point: Do you rest him and try and get him healthy? That will be discussed this week and we'll see how he responds later in the week. He may need a week off and he may be unable to play as well," Fisher added of George.

He is the one loss the Titans have never been able to afford; have never had to afford. George is the most important player on the Titans team, and they may have to find a way to win without him this Sunday when the Titans (2-4) host the Jaguars (2-4) in a battle for sole possession of last place in the AFC Central.

In what was supposed to be a Super Bowl season for the Titans, almost everything has gone wrong. They lost McNair early in the season and lost in Jacksonville in week two with Neil O'Donnell at quarterback.

McNair returned to action two weeks later, and the Titans managed to rally from their 0-3 start to 2-3. Then, the bottom fell out in Pittsburgh.

The Titans defense is 28th in the league overall, and the pass-defense is 30th. Meanwhile, the vaunted Titans running game is a shocking 29th in the league, and George has the league's lowest yards-per-carry average.

What does all of that mean? Well, it means there's big trouble in Opryland, where Fisher's formula for success has always been a strong running game and a staunch defense. This year, the Titans have neither.

Since the Titans became a Super Bowl contender in 1999, they have lost 10 games. George hasn't rushed for more than 79 yards in any of those losses, and has averaged about 40 yards per game. Always, the formula for beating the Titans has been to stop George, but the Jaguars may not even have to do that this Sunday.

What about that Titans defense? What's been the problem on that side of the ball?

"We're giving up too many big plays. That's where the yards are coming and the statistics are based on yards. We're not getting turnovers; that has a lot to do with it," Fisher said.

Any thoughts the Titans have of recovering from their 0-3 start and becoming a Super Bowl contender this season would seem to rest with improvement on defense and the return to health of George.

"Eddie has just not been healthy … Eddie has not been able to get over the hump. If it is not one thing it is another and he is sore, he is frustrated. He is going to have trouble moving around this week. He needs to practice. He hasn't practiced an awful lot with this club this year, so we'll see how he is," Fisher said.

George underwent toe surgery last February and recovery lasted through the preseason. Through six games, he has rushed for a mere 303 yards and a 2.6 yards-per-carry average. If he is unable to play, he will be replaced by Mike Green and Skip Hicks.

The Titans may find themselves relying more heavily than ever before on the McNair to tight end Frank Wycheck combination.

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