McNair has earned a reputation for playing through injuries during his brilliant 10-year career. Volek, who has replaced the injured McNair as the Titans’ starter for the final five games, will not let a bruised left knee keep him from finishing the season.
“I know I’ll be the starter Sunday,” he said.
Volek suffered the injury late in the third quarter of a 37-16 loss to the Denver Broncos on Saturday, and couldn’t finish the game. Volek’s knee was X-rayed at the stadium, and he had an MRI on Sunday that showed no damage beyond a bruise.
McNair’s struggles with a bruised sternum this season will keep him out of eight games. The extended playing time has provided valuable experience for Volek, a fifth-year pro who went undrafted coming out of Fresno State.
Volek currently is the seventh-highest ranked passer in the AFC with an 87.1 rating. He became only the fourth quarterback ever to throw for at least 400 yards in back-to-back games on Dec. 13 and 19.
Volek, however, is coming off a poor performance against the Broncos, completing 8-of-20 passes for 111 yards and two interceptions.
Tennessee’s five-game losing skid is the franchise’s longest since 1994, when the then-Houston Oilers lost 11 straight.
“I want to get better winning games. That’s been frustrating to go out there,” Volek said. “Who cares how many yards that you throw for? When you’re putting up passing yards and a lot of points on the scoreboard and you’re not winning, it’s frustrating.”
McNair spent a second night in the hospital Wednesday after surgery in which doctors grafted bone from his right hip to his chest.
Dr. Burton Elrod, who performed Tuesday’s hour-long procedure with two other doctors, said McNair’s mood is great.
“He wants to go home from the hospital real bad. We are just making him stay an extra day just to be safe,” Elrod said. “He actually feels a lot better than he does even after the licks he would get in a ballgame after the surgery, so we are very happy with that.”
The question of whether that makes the NFL’s co-MVP of 2003 feel well enough to return for 2005 remains unanswered, and waiting for his decision will be the biggest question facing the Titans this offseason.
Detroit has taken a step forward this year, winning more games than it had in any season from 2000-2003. The Lions won’t finish last in their division for the first time in four years. However, Detroit missed an opportunity to stay in the playoff picture in the mediocre NFC.
Detroit started 4-2, then lost seven of eight before pulling out its sixth win in a 19-13 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
“It’s because of what happened in the middle,” Lions quarterback Joey Harrington said. “That’s what is getting at a lot of people. We sit here and look at how the playoffs are shaping up and you can look at five or six games in the middle of season.
“There were plays in all of those games that we could’ve, should’ve, would’ve made that would’ve made a difference in this season.”
Lions chief executive Matt Millen said winning just six games is embarrassing, though his team won a total of 10 during his first three seasons in charge. During Detroit’s midseason slide, it was routed only once and regularly blew leads.
The Lions are shooting for a .500 record on the road after finishing with a 3-5 mark at home. They began the season with an NFL-record 24-game road losing streak after winning eight games at Ford Field over the previous two seasons.
A bright spot for the Lions has been the emergence of rookie running back Kevin Jones, who went over the 1,000-yard mark last week—something only Barry Sanders and Billy Sims did as Detroit rookies.
Jones, who has 1,061 yards, ran for 123 and a touchdown against the Bears. Sanders ran for 1,470 yards in 1989 and Sims had 1,303 in 1980.