NASHVILLE, TN, May 20, 2006
-- Bizarre is the best way to describe the Tennessee Titans' situation at quarterback right now.
Steve McNair isn't allowed to work out on team property pending an arbitrator's ruling on a union grievance expected by June 1. Even if the 11-year veteran is allowed to return, his release appears to be only a matter of time barring a trade or an unlikely new contract with the Titans.
Tennessee found its quarterback of the future in the draft, taking Vince Young of Texas with the third pick overall. But team officials promise not to rush him into the lineup.
Billy Volek, Matt Mauck and rookie Cody Hodges also are on the roster, and even coach Jeff Fisher called it a difficult situation Friday.
"I don't think we've had a more sensitive quarterback issue since I became the head coach here where you have a proven starter who's not in the building, you're getting ready to bring on a rookie, and you've got a backup that hopes to start because he's proven to everybody that he has the ability," he said.
"We all understand it. We're dealing with it, and as soon as we get things worked out, then we'll name whoever is going to be the starter the starter, and we won't look back."
For now, Volek, a six-year veteran who wasn't drafted out of college, is the best bet for starter when the Titans open the season Sept. 10 against the New York Jets. And he said it's a moment he's been waiting for.
"When you want something so bad and you finally have it, it's kind of overwhelming," Volek said. "But I'm just going to go out there and worry about things I can control, take care of myself, take care of my family."
Volek, 30, has put up some impressive numbers when he's had his chances to play in relief of McNair with a career passer rating of 86.9 and has thrown for 3,505 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
He also ranks first among quarterbacks for most yards through their first 10 starts since 1970 with 2,789.
He was at his best in 2004 when McNair missed eight games because of his sternum, throwing for 2,486 yards and 18 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
Undrafted coming out of Fresno State in 2000 despite being a three-year starter who kept David Carr on the bench, the 6-foot-2, 214-pound Volek moved up to McNair's backup in 2003 as a cheaper option to Neil O'Donnell. He had a passer rating of 101.4 in seven appearances, including a relief victory at Atlanta on Nov. 23.
He tested free agency in 2004, talking with Buffalo, Green Bay and twice with Atlanta. Volek chose to sign a four-year deal to return to Tennessee, switched agents to Drew Rosenhaus last year.
Rosenhaus came to Nashville last August to talk about a trade for Volek that would help him become a starter, but Volek nipped that talk, saying he was McNair's backup for the time being.
Volek has led the first-team offense through the first six of their 14 minicamp sessions, even when Young was on the field for the first time with the veterans on Wednesday.
Volek, who learned coordinator Norm Chow's offense last season, looked crisp Friday.
He completed a touchdown passes to Bo Scaife and Chris Brown during a seven-on-seven drill, but had a pass picked off working with mostly rookies with veterans like David Givens and Drew Bennett out with injuries.
Now Volek finds himself the starting quarterback of the moment stuck between the past and the future.
"With them bringing Vince in, I thought they made the right decision between him or Matt. For myself, this is an opportunity for me to go out there and show what I can do. When I've been given a chance to go out and perform, I've put up some yards," Volek said.
NOTES: Vince Young and rookie running back LenDale White weren't at Friday's session. They were in California for some Reebok work for rookies. Fisher said both would be back by Sunday when the Titans' rookies will be signing autographs for fans attending the AFL playoff game between Chicago and Nashville, owned by Titans owner Bud Adams.