A season to forget

Tuesday, January 9, 2001 at 1:00am

After Tennessee Titans placekicker Al Del Greco went 1-for-4 in Sunday's 24-10 playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens, he admitted that his 2000 season was one he would certainly remember with mixed emotions.

He now says he expects the Titans to try out other kickers during next year's training camp. Coach Jeff Fisher said Monday that that was a long way down the road, but that the Titans were always looking to upgrade themselves at every position.

"This was the strangest year I ever had," Del Greco said. "I had a bunch of big kicks and most of them I made, but a lot of them I didn't.

Emotionally, this year was up and down."

Overall, Del Greco finished 28-for-38 on field goals for the season.

Against the Ravens, Del Greco's worst moment came when Anthony Mitchell returned the second blocked field goal 90 yards for what became the winning touchdown with 12:12 left.

"He's made a lot of very big kicks for us over the years," Fisher said Monday. "Unfor-tunately he missed a couple this year, and it cost us some games."

Del Greco is one of the few remaining Titans from the Houston Oilers team that lost the playoff heartbreaker to the Buffalo Bills in January of 1993.

So he has been on the sidelines during difficult playoff losses before, but that never makes it any easier.

"My first couple of years in Houston, we lost a couple of tough playoff games," Del Greco said. "You just have to sit back, get over it, go back and get to work."

He talked about the two kicks that were blocked Sunday, and looked at how each had happened.

"On the first, I really didn't hit it good," Del Greco said. "On the second, (Baltimore's Keith Washington) was only about five yards out. He wasn't very far, and he got a hand on it."

As the clock wound down in the first half, Del Greco lined up to kick a 31-yard field goal. That one bounced hard off the left upright. Del Greco spoke to the officials about a situation that developed before the kick which he felt had rushed his preparation.

"When they had the altercation in the end zone, by the time they spotted the ball there was only 11 seconds on the clock," Del Greco said. "As the referee (Bernie Kukar) was walking by, I asked if he was going to reset the clock. There was about five seconds when I took my steps. It was a little hurried, but from 30 yards out, I should have made it anyway."

In the regular season, Del Greco finished with the fourth-highest point total of his career. His 118 points in the regular year were the third-best in the AFC. He also kicked game-winning field goals against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. Del Greco's 50-yarder at Philadel-phia in the closing seconds of a tough 15-13 win was one of the emotional high points of the Titans' season.

Even at halftime Sunday, after Del Greco was already 0-for-2, he worked on his kicking.

"One of the things about this game is that you still have another half or another kick," Del Greco said. "I missed a couple in the first half, and you don't have the chance to go out and kick a million. Each kick is its own, and I made the third."

That 21-yarder gave the Titans their last lead of the season, a 10-7 advantage with 8:14 left in the third quarter.

Del Greco later spoke about his impact on Sunday's game.

"I wish I could change it all, but all I can do is my best," he said.

"The way it is meant to come out is how it will happen. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to happen for us."

He then put it in perspective of his career, and how totally different Sunday's game was from almost every other one he's ever played.

"Losing is tough to swallow, no matter how it happens," Del Greco said.

"To have this type of day as a professional .... I never remember missing three in a day. I have never thought of that, much less had it happen."

Sadly for Del Greco and Titans fans, those three misses will be remembered for a long time.

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