Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kerry Collins Seeks Redemption and Starting Job In Tennessee

Kerry Collins Seeks Redemption and Starting Job In Tennessee
for News Around The NFL

"Alcohol caused me to act in an erratic way and there were certain personal issues, some family issues that I needed to address," he said. "As everybody saw in those years, the confusion, the angst, the anger that I was experiencing at that time, came to the fore. Alcohol fueled it. I was described as a lost soul at one time and I definitely think that was the case."

The Cincinnati Bengals found themselves in the middle of a shitstorm today--not of their own making, ironically.

Paul Brown Stadium was turned into a wind tunnel by 30 MPH winds while swirling debris pelted the field - one of the referees’ white caps sailed more than 50 yards off his head - and every throw became a gamble. Balls floated and veered, forcing the offenses to keep it simple.

It was a fitting end for a week--for one of those rarest of weeks--that The Bengals enjoyed the fact that the off-field troubles of the other team seem to be larger and more consuming than their very own.

The Tennessee Titans franchinse quarterback Vince Young was in the news earlier in the week as mental health officials with close knowledge of his state of mind scrambled to find him during a few hours when he went missing without his cell phone and with a gun.

Suddenly, the unlikeliest of hero's was called upon and thrust back into the spotlight that had been so bright and encompassing once.

Former 1st Round Draft Pick quarterback Kerry Collins was given the nod in the start with Cincinnati, the latest leg on what has been a "long strange trip" of a career. The 35-year-old alcoholic was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 1995, and in his three seasons with the Panthers, he threw for 7,295 yards, 39 touchdowns and 49 interceptions. His completion percentage was 52.6% and his quarterback rating was 65.6. In his second season, he led the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game.

1997 was the year everything fell apart.

After a binge-drinking episode with teammates lead to a team brawl and injured Collins in the late preseason, Collins threw 21 interceptions during the season and the Panthers finished 7-9, just one season after advancing to the NFC Championship. Collins was placed on waivers by Carolina during the 1998 season and was subsequently signed by the New Orleans Saints.

On November 2, 1998 Collins was arrested for drunk driving in Charlotte, North Carolina. He finished the 1998 campaign in New Orleans and signed with the New York Giants as a free agent on February 19, 1999.

In the 2000 season Collins led the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. The next year he set the single-season fumbling record with 21 fumbles (tied by Daunte Culpepper in 2002). After five seasons, sixty-eight starts and 16,875 yards in New York, Collins found himself replaced in the offseason by the unforgiving New York Giants by Kurt Warner and Eli Manning.

Collins caught on later with the impotent Oakland Raiders and was cut for salary cap reasons after two seasons as a spot-starter and backup.

In August of 2006 Collins was brought into Tennessee to help groom Vince Young to be the franchise quarterback he is today, and Young was forced into service once Collins and the office failed to gel due to the considerably brief amount of time Collins had to absorb and become comfortable with the offense.

Now it is 2008, and Collins is again the starter in Tennessee--for how long? No one is sure. Vince Young could have lingering mental issues that could hamper him all season, and if Collins--who managed the game well versus Cincinnati, completing 14-of-21 passes and not throwing an interception--continues to show the traces of his once legendary arm and quick reads, then he could push and hold the job even after Young is medically cleared to play.

Imagine what sort of greatness we never got to witness in those lost years even Kerry Collins can barely remember.

Steve Fisher, Titan head coach, didn't say that Young, the team's top draft pick in 2006, would automatically get his job back when his sprained left knee heals in approximately four weeks.

"One thing that Vince never really got to do like a lot of young quarterbacks is just sit back and watch how a seasoned pro goes about the job," Fisher said. "His rookie year, yes, he watched Kerry play for three games but Kerry had just joined the team right before the season and didn't really know the scheme or the playbook.

"The only time it really happened was last year when Kerry started after Vince got hurt. Kerry started in Houston [Oct. 21] and he played great [25-of-42 passing, 280 yards in a 38-36 win].

"So I want [Young] to get well, sit back, watch and learn how Kerry prepares, how he plays, how he reacts to adversity. As you know, Kerry went through a lot of things early in his career as a No. 1 pick [in Carolina] but he's the model of stability and consistency right now. Kerry's a good person and he'll help Vince just by example and the nature of his own personal story. We'll make this a positive experience for Vince and, in the end, he'll be what we thought he could be."

In a highly publicized incident, on the last night of Carolina Panthers training camp in 1997 Collins used the offensive racial slur the "n" word in reference to a african-american teammate while in a binge drinking fueled intoxicated state at a bar in Spartanburg, SC. Collins also inadvertently slurred offensive lineman Norberto Garrido, who is of Hispanic descent. This resulted in Collins being punched in the eye by Garrido. Collins had stated, in an intoxicated state, that he thought the use of the racial epithet would help him and his teammates bond.