Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch sounded confident he would return from groin surgery in time for the Tennessee Titans’ divisional playoff game on Saturday, but at the same time offered no guarantees until he returns to the practice field to test the injury.
Likewise, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said the sprained MCL in his left knee has been slower to progress than he would prefer, and that he will work with same Atlanta chiropractor, who helped him last year come back from a hamstring injury. But, Haynesworth added, he cannot imagine not being on the field when the Titans play their first playoff game on Jan. 10.
“Everything is going as planned. It’s healing up nicely and feels good. I’m able to do more and more things every day,” Vanden Bosch said. “Hopefully, [I will practice] early next week. That’ll put me at about three weeks out from surgery, and hopefully, I’ll be all healed up and ready to go.”
Still, he said how he does in practice and how the injury responds to practice would be the determining factor in what happens to him on Jan. 10 when the Titans play in the divisional playoffs.
“That’s the plan. I don’t see why I won’t be able to play, but I don’t know what will happen between now and game time,” said Vanden Bosch, who had surgery in mid-December. “I have to get out there and practice and see how it feels and see how I do at practice. That will be the thing that will really determine it. That’s where I’m at.
“Hopefully, I can go out there next week and do some things and feel good and not have any setbacks. Hopefully, the decision will be made before the game, but at this point we’ll just have to see. It has to keep improving for me to go out there and help this team win.”
Vanden Bosch battled the injury for weeks after originally injuring it Oct. 5 in Baltimore. He said trying to push through it only made it worse.
“I’ve had injuries before, but I’ve just been able to push through it and fix it in the off-season,” Vanden Bosch said. “I tried to put the pain aside and play through it, but it just made things worse. Now, I’ve had the surgery, had time to recover and had time to rest, and hopefully, when this thing is all said and done, this groin problem will all be behind me.”
He added that he has been pain-free since the surgery and his confidence is growing regarding the recovery.
“When I went in, the doctor told me I could be back in four weeks from the surgery, I kind of had my doubts, but every day the way it’s been progressing, it keeps building my confidence,” said Vanden Bosch, who has been running for the past few days.
As for Haynesworth, he has not been able to run yet, something that has him a bit frustrated.
“It’s just slow to me. It ain’t quite there. When I’m not out there practicing and playing, I feel like I’m just wasting my time, but I guess that’s just part of football,” Haynesworth said. “They haven’t even asked me to run yet, so I don’t know.”
One thing Haynesworth will do is consult and work with Michael Hatrak, an Atlanta chiropractic doctor, who helped him in his return from a hamstring injury last year. He will work with Hatrak in addition to the Titans trainers in order to return to practice and playing.
Asked what Hatrak will do, Haynesworth replied, “Just a bunch of different stuff. I tell him what hurts, and he helps fix it. He helped me last year with my hamstring.”
Haynesworth said that he has made some progress, but would not be able to go if the Titans had had a playoff game this week. He also added that he cannot imagine not playing next week.
“We’ve made strides, but I can’t go 100 percent right now. If the game was tomorrow, I couldn’t play,” Haynesworth said. “[But] I would be surprised if I wasn’t out there Saturday.”
NOT HAPPY: Titans running back Chris Johnson said Wednesday that if players voted for Offensive Rookie of the Year, he believes that he, not Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, would have won the award.
The award is voted upon by a panel of 50 media members from across the nation and is overseen by the Associated Press. Ryan received 44 votes, while Johnson, the runner-up, received just three votes.
“Of course, it would have been different,” Johnson said. “I had the most votes of any rookie [for the Pro Bowl], more than Matt Ryan. I’m the only one that made it to the Pro Bowl out of all the rookies.”
Pro Bowl balloting is done in thirds, with fan vote, player vote and coaches votes each counting one-third in the process.
“He’s a good player, and he played quarterback and did a good job this year,” Johnson said of Ryan, who guided the Falcons to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. “But the whole thing is bogus, because people are voting for it that are not on the same field as the people who are playing.
“I’m disappointed. I did all I could to win it. I feel I did the best. I feel I did all I could do to win it; it just didn’t come my way.”
Ryan threw for 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, posting 3,440 yards and an 87.7 passer rating.
Johnson rushed for 1,228 yards and nine touchdowns for the Titans.
At least one Titans teammate agrees that Johnson should have been the winner.
“He’s the only rookie going to the Pro Bowl, so he’s got to be the Rookie of the Year,” tight end Bo Scaife said. “And we’ve got the best record in the NFL. Chris Johnson has got my vote. I’m sure if they left it up to the players, Chris Johnson would get most of the votes.”
SCHWARTZ UPDATE: According to league sources, Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is likely to interview with both the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns this weekend.
Schwartz, as reported Wednesday in The City Paper, has been person of interest to the Lions, who are expected to interview him in town this weekend.
The Lions, who finished 0-16, fired Rod Marinelli the day after the regular season and Schwartz was one of a number of prospective candidates mentioned for the vacancy.
The Browns are also expected to interview Schwartz over the weekend with the Titans having a bye week in the playoffs and that opening a time frame this week to allow for preliminary interviews.
The Browns’ interest in Schwartz could also be in part tied to their pursuit of New England Patriots executive Scott Paoli. The Browns are interested in him as a general manager, and if Paoli gets the job, he and Schwartz have ties to each other from earlier stints in Cleveland.
Schwartz could be in the Browns mix along with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and University of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, if Paoli is hired in Cleveland.
CRAMER RETURNS: The Tennessee Titans re-signed fullback/tight end Casey Cramer to their roster on Wednesday and placed linebacker Josh Stamer on injured reserve.
Cramer was with the Titans in 2006-07 before being let go in final cuts. He was signed by the Miami Dolphins, but was recently released three weeks ago.
Rejoining the Titans a nice bonus for Cramer, who was also on Tennessee’s practice squad for a time in 2004.
“The Saturday before week 16 in Miami, I got released, so I waited around until Tuesday and went home for Christmas and spent some time with my family,” Cramer said. It was the first time in six years I got to spend Christmas at home. I did a lot of shoveling [of snow], and I just kind of waited around.”
He got a phone call from Jeff Fisher as he was preparing to head back to Florida to pick up his car.
“I was flying back down to Fort Lauderdale to pick up my car, and Coach Fisher called me. He asked how I was doing,” Cramer said. “So I flew back down to Fort Lauderdale, drove right up to Tennessee and came in this morning.
Cramer will play primarily on special teams for the Titans and could serve as a backup long snapper to Ken Amato, especially depending upon Kevin Mawae’s status for the divisional round. Mawae, the Titans’ regular center and backup long snapper, is battling an elbow injury.
“Casey clearly knows what we’re doing offensively and will take just a couple days to get caught up and then in special teams he knows the philosophy, knows the techniques,” Fisher said. “He’s been very effective for us.”
Cramer said he feels fortunate to have landed back in Tennessee just in time for the playoffs.
“I just feel at home here. So just to be able to have them do all the work and then I come in for the playoffs is a tremendous honor, too, because I know everybody has been working hard,” Cramer said. “I’ve been rooting for them all season long and rooting for them. I’m very happy to be a part of it.”
Stamer, a backup linebacker and special teams player, suffered a groin injury in last Sunday’s regular-season finale at Indianapolis.
RETURNING: Kevin Vickerson, the Titans defensive tackle who was suspended for using a banned substance under the league’s policy, returned to practice after serving his four-game suspension.
“I worked out, trying to stay in shape,” Vickerson said of how he passed the time off. “I was really just keeping in touch with the players and coaches, letting them know where I was at.”
He said he decided to go ahead and serve the ban rather than fight it the way five other NFL players did. Eventually, Minnesota Vikings players Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, got a judge to temporarily block their suspensions to allow them to keep playing.
“My situation was totally different from other guys. We were already in the playoffs,”
Vickerson said. “That’s why I took the suspension. It was something that the front office, my agent and I sat down with and it was the best solution that I come back for the first round of the playoffs.”
The Titans have a roster exemption for Vickerson this week, but will have to clear a spot for him by next week.