NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans may be back to full strength in the secondary for Monday night's game with the Houston Texans.
Left cornerback Nick Harper has practiced and isn't on the injury report this week for the first time since breaking his right forearm Oct. 11 in a loss to Indianapolis. Doctors cleared him for contact last week, but the Titans have been cautious because Rod Hood has three interceptions in Harper's absence plus the severity of his initial injury.
"He practiced today and feels good," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We'll make a decision in the next couple days."
Putting Harper back into the starting lineup could be risky because Hood is part of a secondary that has seven interceptions in the Titans' three-game winning streak. And Hood has had one in each win, including an interception returned for a touchdown in last weekend's 41-17 win over Buffalo.
Harper wasn't available in the locker room Friday because he was receiving treatment and heading straight to meetings. The ninth-year veteran doesn't have an interception this season.
Hood signed with the Titans on Oct. 15, and the cornerback who started with Arizona last season said he respects Fisher's loyalty to his players and understands the job is Harper's once healthy.
"I support Nick 100 percent. I want him to go out and do well. It's tough when you've been hurt, and I've been hurt and I haven't had that same loyalty to me that he's having. I definitely respect that as a player," Hood said.
The Titans gave up 357 yards passing to Houston in the 34-31 loss in Week 2 with Harper starting alongside Cortland Finnegan and safeties Chris Hope and Michael Griffin. Communication issues were blamed for big plays allowed in that loss, and Fisher said Friday that the entire group was unsettled to start the season.
Tennessee has held each opponent to 250 yards passing or less in each of the wins.
"It's has a lot to do with the return of Cort, Rod getting use to what we're doing and Vinny (Fuller) coming back," Fisher said.
CARS? WHAT CARS? Chris Johnson may be backing off his promise to buy cars for the offensive linemen if he becomes only the sixth back in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards this season.
"No, I never promised any cars. I said the offensive line, they wanted cars if I got 2,00 yards. I never promised cars or anything like that," Johnson said Thursday.
Well, that's not exactly what he said to three reporters on Nov. 4. That day, it certainly sounded as if Johnson planned to deliver new cars. He talked of how it was a goal of his to reach 2,000 yards rushing.
"It's a real goal of the offensive linemen," Johnson said that day. "I told them if I get 2,000 yards I'll buy them all cars."
Johnson leads the NFL with 1,091 yards rushing and must average 129.8 yards in the final seven games to reach 2,000. The second-year running back knows he will owe his linemen something since he's having such a strong season, and he said he knows he'll have to do better than the 55-inch HDTVs he handed out for his rookie season.
OWNER'S FINE: Don't expect any of the Titans to follow owner Bud Adams' example and celebrate any future wins with an obscene hand gesture. The NFL smacked Adams with a $250,000 fine on Monday after the owner was caught by a fan's cell phone making the gesture from his box at the 41-17 win over Buffalo.
Linebacker Keith Bulluck called it a heavy fine.
"You know what, owning a team for 50 years and going through everything Mr. Adams has gone through, it is OK to flick a couple birds here and there. I'm sure it wasn't his first time. Maybe the first time he was caught," Bulluck said.
How did some of the Titans react? Laugh.
"I think everyone who has seen it has laughed at it," Bulluck said. "At the end of the day, in all seriousness the NFL has to do what it has to do. For entertainment purposes, it was very entertaining."
INJURY REPORT: Receiver Justin Gage did not practice again Friday and has not worked since breaking several transverse process bones in his lower back. He has been busy receiving treatment after each practice and has not been available in the locker room the past two days.
"He's improving each day," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He's improving. If he's unable to get out tomorrow, then it will be unlikely that he will play."
Linebacker David Thornton was back on the field Friday but limited because of a hip injury. Defensive end Jason Jones did not practice because of a shoulder injury that has bothered him throughout this season. Linebacker Colin Allred missed a second straight practice with a hamstring injury.
Safety Kevin Kaesviharn missed his second straight day but not with injury. His wife had their third child Tuesday, and Fisher said the safety was expected back very soon.