Justin Gage insists that Sunday will be just another game, and that he will keep his emotions in check he and the Tennessee Titans face his old team the Chicago Bears.
Publicly, Gage says he will avoid any “I told you so’s” as it relates to the Bears giving up on him after the 2006 season.
Gage had spent four seasons in Chicago after being a fifth-round pick in 2003, but by the time his tenure was done there, he was a forgotten man. He was active for just eight games in ’06 and caught only four passes.
“My only thoughts are doing what I can do to contribute to our team and helping us get this win. That’s our main concern,” Gage said. “All the personal stuff, that’s something the media takes advantage of. For me, I just want to get this victory.”
He came to the Titans last year on a one-year make-good contract and posted a career high 55 catches for 750 yards. Gage admits that he really didn’t believe he got a fair shake during his time in Chicago to show what he could do.
“I really don’t, but that’s part of the business,” Gage said. “Other guys are coming in and doing things. The organization did what they wanted to do and we parted ways, and that’s that.”
After signing a four-year, $14 million extension with the Titans before this year, Gage looked to be heading toward being the Titans’ No. 1 receiver, but a knee injury has derailed those plans a bit. He has just one catch the past two weeks after missing three games with the injury. Gage has 13 catches for 182 yards thus far in five games play.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said he is happy that Gage found a landing spot in Tennessee.
“That’s how the league goes. Sometimes, for whatever reason, I think everyone ends up where they belong and that’s what’s happened with Justin,” Smith said. “He did a good job for us here. We had other guys and he never really got into a position where he could be the man here. But he worked out for them there. Just a great guy and we couldn’t be happier for him. [I] pull for him every week, of course except for this one.”
Gage admits that in one sense it was tough to leave the Bears and the friendships he had made in the organization.
“Any time you spend that much time with a group of kids, you grow a bond. It’s hard to see people go when they go,” Gage said. “It’s hard to leave a group of guys that you’ve kind of grown with, but for the better of everybody. So we always wish each other the best.”
But he knows things are better for him as a Titan, and said he is simply a better fit for the Titans, but also the environment in Nashville.
“There’s a lot going on in the city, a lot of people there, and a lot of friends,” Gage said. “But it’s packed. It’s congested and it’s just busy. It is what it is, and I’m more of a slow city kind of guy.”
Injury update: Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) and linebacker Keith Bulluck (ribs) missed practice for a second straight day on Thursday, as did return man Chris Carr, who is bothered by a shoulder injury.
Vanden Bosch has battled a strained groin for a month, and there has been speculation that he could be shut down for the week. Bulluck finished last week’s game with cracked rib cartilage, and said Wednesday he likely won’t practice this week.
Change-up: In order to allow players to rest and heal up from playing twice in a six-day span, the Titans practiced at 4 p.m. Thursday and under the lights at Baptist Sports Park.
“We’ve done that over the last few years once or twice at this time of year just to give them an extra opportunity to recover,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “We got in some good work yesterday, we just let them go home and sleep and rest. It’s nice. When you’re in a routine getting up at 5:30-6:00 in the morning, it’s nice to go ahead and just sleep in during the week. I know the veterans, when they went through their first experience, really appreciated it. So the design was just to heal up and rest up and we had good work tonight.”
Honoring: Titans fullback Ahmard Hall, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan will make his annual visit to a local veterans hospital in honor of Veteran’s Day next Tuesday.
“I’m just going to the hospital. I’ve been every year since I’ve been here,” Hall said. “I’m just going to show my gratitude to the veterans, young and old, that served the country and enable us to do what we do.”