Dirty play is the hot topic as the Jaguars and Titans prepare to face each other for the second time in three weeks. Titans coach Jeff Fisher fired the first salvo on Monday, then both teams opened fire on Wednesday. But one Jaguars player who could make a legitimate claim of foul play by the Titans has said nothing.
He is offensive tackle Maurice Williams, who suffered a season-ending broken right fibula in the first meeting between the two teams last season, in Nashville. Williams was pass-blocking when Titans defensive lineman Robaire Smith rolled into Williams' legs.
The pain was immediate and sharp. Then came the news Williams had suffered a broken leg, that surgery would be required and that the broken bone would also require a titanium plate and screws.
Just as quickly, there were concerns for Williams' future in the game. In his second pro season, he was the team's most promising, young offensive lineman. Would he make a complete recovery?
A year later, Williams is only days away from a return to the scene of his most significant football injury, which bears a foot-long scar down the outside of his right leg. When he comes onto the field for pregame Sunday, he'll no doubt look at the spot on the field where he was injured and give thanks.
"He fell right into my leg," Williams said of Smith, against whom he played when they were Michigan-Michigan State rivals. "He called Fred (Taylor) and said it wasn't (intentional). I talked to him after the game (this year). He said, 'It's good to see you back out there.'"
Williams and Smith have resolved their issue without involving the media. "I don't think there was (anything dirty about it)," Williams said. "I'm believing there wasn't. It was one of the toughest things I've had to go through as a football player. I'm healed now and I'm blessed to be playing."
Mark Brunell was also a victim in that game last season. Brunell was struck by Titans cornerback Samari Rolle in a helmet-to-helmet collision along the sideline as Brunell attempted to pass. Rolle incurred a $7,500 fine from the league, and the Titans complained bitterly that the league buckled to the Jaguars' complaints.
A year later, Brunell is preparing to return to Nashville, though he'll likely be the Jaguars' "third quarterback" this Sunday.
"There's no place for dirty play. This game is violent enough as it is," Brunell said.
Brunell is only an observer these days, but he can't help but wonder why Fisher introduced the "dirty play" issue this week. "I would think if you're going to play that game, it would only help us," he said.
"You saw what it did last week. I honestly think those guys rallied around Fred," Brunell added, referring to Taylor's comments about Colts rookie safety Mike Doss.
"Some things never change. The Titans are our number one rival. There's going to be talk back and forth. I don't know if it matters much, but it's fun to read," Brunell said.