NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan doesn't back down from anybody, and feisty might be the kindest word used to describe him. Now he receives his first chance to match up against Hines Ward, the physical Pittsburgh Steelers wideout who loves hitting defenders.
Naturally, Finnegan can't wait until Sunday.
"He brings another dynamic to the game. It's getting dirty, blocking. That's something I can appreciate because not a lot of receivers do it," the Pro Bowl cornerback said Thursday. "As far as Hines Ward goes, he's a really physical receiver I'm looking forward to going up against."
Ward is an 11-year veteran with a handful of Pittsburgh records and leads the team with 68 catches for 864 yards. He's also the receiver who blocks so hard that he broke the jaw of Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers in October.
"He's the type of football player you want on your team," Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. As a defender, you definitely have to know where he is. If you don't, he'll definitely find you, and you don't want him to find you the wrong way."
Finnegan is in his third NFL season after being a seventh-round draft pick out of Samford. He's in his second year as a starter and was selected to his first Pro Bowl as an AFC starter Tuesday. He plays with so much intensity that after tangling with Baltimore wide receiver Derrick Mason in a game on Oct. 5, his own teammates had trouble calming him down.
Finnegan also has drawn his share of personal fouls, including in last week's 13-12 loss to Houston in which he was flagged for roughing the passer with helmet-to-helmet contact with Matt Schaub and unnecessary roughness for spearing at the end of a tackle in the same series.
The NFL fined Finnegan $25,000 on Thursday for the plays, and he told The Tennessean he planned to appeal.
"He's not doing those things on purpose," Fisher said. "He's playing with a great deal of emotion and playing aggressively. That's why he's played so well this year."
Asked if Finnegan is a carbon copy of himself except as a defensive player, Ward called the cornerback a great player with a lot of attitude.
"I mean, he made the Pro Bowl for a reason, and I'm sure the reason wasn't because he was hitting guys and getting penalties," Ward said. "He's definitely had a great year this year and is playing well."
Finnegan is tied for second in the NFL with five interceptions, and he ranks eighth on the Tennessee defense with 72 tackles. He also has defended a team-high 19 passes.
"This guy is playing great ball for them," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's got the knack for delivering big plays. He's playing with a bunch of confidence. He's going to be a big-time challenge for whoever he's covering, whether it's Hines or Santonio (Holmes) or Nate Washington. This guy has a nice body of work and is definitely deserving of that Pro Bowl honor."
Bulluck said he believes Finnegan understands how to keep himself under control, which will be crucial Sunday with the Titans (12-2) trying to clinch the AFC's No. 1 seed with a victory over the Steelers (11-3).
Finnegan said he admires Ward as a good player and crafty veteran.
"I don't go into it saying the sparks are going to happen. That just happens in the battle," Finnegan said. "I would assume we respect each other enough we're not going to do anything deliberately. But at the same time, we're both going to play hard football."
That might be all they need.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.