Spotlight Returns to Football Sunday at Houston

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Hitting the field Sunday will be theraputic of sorts for Titans players who are ready to focus on football and return to the win column.

Despite a three-game losing streak Tennessee (5-5) is one game behind Indianapolis (6-4) and Jacksonville (6-4) and a game ahead of Houston (4-6) in the AFC South. The Titans visit the Texans at noon Sunday to begin a stretch of four straight divisional games.

This week began with a disappointing 19-16 overtime loss to Washington, which preceded a locker room dispute with Titans coach Jeff Fisher and quarterback Vince Young. It continued with the demotion of Young at quarterback and his placement on injured reserve because of a torn ligament in the thumb of his throwing hand. The week worsened exponentially Wednesday when offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was diagnosed with cancer. Heimerdinger missed practice Wednesday but returned Thursday and Friday and plans to coach the Houston game before starting chemotherapy treatments next Monday.

"It's going to be a remedy for a lot of guys," wide receiver Nate Washington said. "We're excited to get back on the field and play."

Washington has the opportunity to record his third 100-yard performance in a four-game span against a Texans defense that is last in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (301) and ranks 31st in passing yards per play (8.1), yards per game (408.8), yards per play (6.2) and points per game (28.7).

"We have an opportunity to make some plays, but we just have to make sure we're doing things right in every aspect of our offense," Washington said. "Whatever they give us, that's what we're going to have to take. We understand that they're young and struggling a little bit in the secondary."

Washington said the team has been inspired by the way Heimerdinger has approached his diagnosis.

"Coach Dinger's a strong guy. I haven't seen a sway in him one bit," Washington said. "If anything, he's hiding his pain well. He's not walking around moping. He doesn't do a lot of complaining. It's unfortunate that he's going through what he's going through."

Linebacker David Thornton led the team in prayer for Heimerdinger Wednesday. Thornton returned to the 53-man roster Tuesday after rehabbing multiple injuries that placed him on the physically unable to perform list.

Linebacker Stephen Tulloch said the Titans need to get back on the field and need to win when they get there.

"We have to get back on the field," Tulloch said. "I've been dying to get back on the field because we've lost three straight games. There's no option to lose. We've got to get the job done if we're going to the playoffs."

Thornton said he was appreciative of the patience that Titans administration has shown as he's tried to return. He said he has faith his teammates can correct the team's recent struggles.

"I'm still confident in every man in this locker room to get the job done," Thornton said. "That's part of being a pro. You have to be committed and be able to lay aside the distractions that can hurt your team and focus on the task at hand."

Injury update

Receiver Kenny Britt (hamstring) did not practice Friday and is out for Sunday's game against the Texans, Fisher said.

Veteran quarterback Kerry Collins did not practice and is questionable in only a backup role Sunday, tight end Craig Stevens was limited in practice Friday and is probable, and kicker Rob Bironas did not practice Friday and is probable for Sunday, Fisher said.

The Titans are thinner on the defensive line than they have been all season.

Defensive tackles Tony Brown and Jason Jones and defensive end Dave Ball did not practice Friday. Fisher said all are questionable for Sunday.

"We've had the luxury of having eight (defensive linemen on rotation this season), Fisher said. "We've had games and years where we've only had seven."

Defensive end Jacob Ford said the linemen who do play need to pressure Texans QB Matt Schaub, and take Houston out of rhythm early.

"We've got a lot of guys, and we've pulled together through situations like this before," Ford said. "We've fought through it."

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