Titans' Kearse Feels Like Broken Foot OK
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Jevon Kearse feels his left foot has finally healed.
Now the Tennessee Titans' defensive end hopes to become the threat to NFL quarterbacks he was in his first three seasons.
Kearse, who has had two operations on his foot since breaking it in last season's opener, has been running outside for the first time this week at the Titans' final minicamp of the offseason. He said he realizes people don't know what to expect from him.
"I'm pretty sure they're hoping I don't come back full speed. A lot of people don't know what it's going to be like or what I'm going to bring," Kearse said.
"I'm going to come back better than I did my rookie season. I have to prove myself again."
Back in 1999, Kearse set a rookie record with 14.5 sacks and became the first rookie defensive end since 1978 to start in the Pro Bowl as the Titans won the AFC title.
He started the first 49 games of his career and joined Reggie White and Derrick Thomas as the only players with double-digit sacks in each of their first three seasons.
But while chasing Donovan McNabb in last season's opener, Kearse hurdled teammate Henry Ford. and landed awkwardly on his left foot.
He tried to walk to the sideline but had to be helped by trainers. Surgery quickly followed with doctors trying to repair the bone by inserting a screw.
Kearse missed 12 games. He returned for the final four, but had just 11 tackles, two sacks and four quarterback pressures while playing only on passing downs.
After the loss to Oakland in the AFC championship game, Kearse visited specialists and had another operation in February. This time, doctors inserted a new screw and grafted bone over the break, hoping that would strengthen his foot.
Kearse said he finally felt confident his foot had been fixed when he took off a walking boot earlier this spring and didn't feel pain.
Doctors finally cleared him for running outside this week.
Kearse promises to be ready for the first training camp practice on July 25. He needs to be as he heads into the final year on his contract.
Traditionally, the Titans have signed their top players to new deals before they head into the final year on their original contracts. But they decided last winter to hold off until seeing if Kearse's old form returns.
That's fine with Kearse, who now knows much more about the bones in the foot than he ever expected.
"We all can break that same bone. Because there is like barely any kind of blood circulation there," he said. "Anybody can do it. It's the part of the body that's real prone to break if you hit it at the right spot."