Simms' stint with Titans has revived his arm, zest

Chris Simms has been a good fit with the Titans.
The 28-year-old quarterback sits on the Tennessee Titans' roster as the No. 3 quarterback behind veteran Kerry Collins and Vince Young. Simms feels revived physically, mentally and emotionally since signing with this team in September as an insurance policy when Young sprained his left knee in the opener.

Simms didn't play a snap for Tennessee until last week's 23-0 loss at Indianapolis, and then it was only one series. But for the quarterback best known for having his spleen removed after taking a beating in a loss to Carolina on Sept. 24, 2006, that meant everything: his first regular-season action since being hurt that day more than two years ago.

"You always want to play and be out there, but I just couldn't be happier for Kerry and the job he's done," Simms said Friday after the Titans' last practice before enjoying two days off during their first-round playoffs bye.

"Maybe I have a little bit different perspective. I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to play again. I'm happy to be out here, be on a team and able to play again."

Everything about Simms screams NFL quarterback. He has the size at 6-foot-4 and is back up to his listed weight of 220 pounds. The son of Phil Simms, the 1987 Super Bowl MVP with the New York Giants, Chris went from an outstanding high school career in New Jersey to the University of Texas, where he set a string of records.

Tampa Bay drafted him in the third round in 2003, and he seemed on his way to a similarly strong pro career after sitting out his rookie year. He played in five games in 2004, then 2005 was his best season. He started 10 of 11 games and threw for 2,035 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions in leading the Bucs into the playoffs.

Then came 2006. Simms started the first three games and hurt his spleen sometime during the loss to Carolina. He had a splenectomy hours after finishing the game. The Bucs placed him on injured reserve, deactivated him for the first five games of 2007 before putting him on IR once again.

Simms had asked the Bucs to release him during the offseason. Tampa Bay finally let him go on Aug. 31.

A recovery that Simms thought would take only a few months turned into a struggle with a 10-inch scar going down the middle of his stomach, draining the adjacent muscles of any strength.

"This time last year, I was definitely skeptical if I'd be able to play again because of the way it was going," Simms said.

The Titans signed Simms on Sept. 10 even though he struggled to throw the ball when he arrived. But they had liked what they saw out of the left-hander before his injury, and Simms went to work with strength coach Steve Watterson and trainer Geoff Kaplan. When the team finished practice, Simms went to work rebuilding his strength, especially in his abdomen.

"I got here (and) I got the proper rehab," Simms said. "In Tampa, I think they were a little bit intimidated by my situation. I think they were a little scared I might legally hold them liable. So it was just a tough situation. ... It was just great that I came here."

Collins, whose locker is next to Simms, said having Simms has helped him during a season when Collins has been the starter for a team that earned the AFC's No. 1 seed with an NFL-best 13-3 record. He also has been impressed with how hard Simms has worked.

"It really affected the way he threw the ball. To his credit, he has worked his tail off since he's been here, getting muscles back where they need to be for him. And to the Titans' credit, they've recognized what he needs to do and diagnosed it well and put him on a program. And Chris has worked very, very hard within that program.

"Where he's at now to where he was when he first got here is night and day."

Simms' future might remain in Tennessee.

Coach Jeff Fisher said Simms did a nice job preparing for what wound up as one series against the Colts. Simms was 1-of-2 for seven 7 late in that loss. Tennessee had signed Simms just for one year, but Fisher said they want to keep him after this season.

"I think his arm's maybe better now than it's ever been because of the work that he's put in," Fisher said.

The Titans also must decide if they want to bring back Collins with Young also under contract. But they have earned Simms' trust and loyalty.

"They hung in there with me the most, realized I hadn't practiced or played in a long time and kind of let me get my feet back underneath me ..." Simms said. "I love it here. I really do."

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