Starting playoff game would step up Young's NFL education Print
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Wednesday, 02 January 2008 15:55
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 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Peyton Manning lost his first playoff game in the NFL. So did quarterbacks Dan Marino, John Elway, Troy Aikman and yes, even Philip Rivers of San Diego.
Some of the winners include quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick.
The Tennessee Titans hope Vince Young can add his name to that second list if his sore right quadriceps muscle allows him to start Sunday in their wild-card playoff game with San Diego.
What better way for a quarterback to take a big step in his NFL education than to start in the postseason.
``In a lot of ways, the Colts game was kind of our first playoff game, a must-win game, and I thought he responded well,'' coach Jeff Fisher said of the 16-10 win last week to clinch their wild-card spot.
``This will be a good experience for him. ... They're not easy, but the experience is invaluable.''
The No. 3 pick overall in 2006 and the first quarterback drafted, Young is only the 11th quarterback drafted since 1983 to lead a playoff team in his first or second season out of the 53 first-round draft picks in that time.
In the Super Bowl era, quarterbacks drafted in the first round are 23-22 in their playoff debuts, and it's been streaky. Manning lost his debut - to the Titans. The next six QBs won. The past five? All losses, capped by Rivers' loss to New England last January.
Young would become the youngest quarterback to start a game for this franchise if he starts at the age of 24 years, 233 days. Gifford Nielsen was 25 years, 65 days when he replaced Dan Pastorini and beat the Chargers on Dec. 29, 1979, to reach the AFC championship game.
To prep himself, Young has talked to players with postseason experience, but he believes talk only goes so far.
``I have to worry about myself, get myself prepared to play the game. Let the game come to me. That's basically it,'' Young said.
He compared preparing for the postseason to a quarterback learning a new offense. The best way to do it is playing.
``I really feel like, myself, you learn better when you're out there on the field, and I don't really feel like it's going to be different,'' Young said. ``I know it's going to be a little bit more uptempo. At the same time, you have to go out there and play your game. That's basically it.''
The biggest question now is whether Young will be healthy enough to make his postseason debut.
With the Titans needing to win or go home in their regular-season finale at Indianapolis, Young was 14-for-18 for 157 yards and had scrambled four times for 19 yards when he had to leave the game after hurting his quadriceps muscle.
He missed a 38-36 win at Houston on Oct. 21 after hurting the same muscle a week earlier in Tampa Bay. Young said his thigh feels nothing like it did then even though he never healed from that injury. He calls himself a quick healer and expects to play.
But he was limited Wednesday in practice, throwing in some drills. Fisher said Young would not have been able to start if the game had been played Wednesday.
``What's good right now is that he was able to participate in some practice. That's essential. So we hope that we can keep him involved on the practice field this week,'' Fisher said.
If Young can't start, then Kerry Collins would start his first postseason game since 2002 when he was with the New York Giants. As the Titans' backup, he is Young's closest resource for what to expect in the playoffs.
``It's intensely competitive and even more so than the regular season,'' Collins said. ``It's a great atmosphere, though. It's very exciting and I think it brings out the best in you as a player and you as a team. It's going to be a lot of fun.''
San Diego coach Norv Turner has been around his share of quarterbacks in this situation, and he doesn't think each quarterback is the same.
``There are certain guys that have been in so many big games and they expect to be in big games, that I don't think it's as big an issue. I think everyone knows that every play becomes so critical. That adds to that kind of pressure that you have,'' Turner said.
And he doesn't expect Young to struggle if he plays.
``He's played an awful lot of games,'' Turner said.

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