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Titans not concerned about Broncos' accusations of dirty play

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan didn't throw the first verbal blow -- Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton did that Sunday when he called Tennessee players "cheap" -- but he delivered a counterpunch.

"We don't play the Broncos this week. We play the Cowboys," Finnegan said after practice Wednesday. "I could care less what another man says. He's a quarterback, man, who cares? If he wants to show up in Nashville and see me, that's cool, too, but I doubt it."

Orton criticized the Titans for playing dirty -- so did Broncos coach Josh McDaniels -- and pointed out Finnegan in particular following Denver's 26-20 victory at Tennessee. Orton claimed Finnegan punched Broncos guard Chris Kuper when the lineman's helmet was off.

"If that's the type of player Cortland Finnegan wants to be, then he is a cheap player," Orton said after the game. "He is a cheap player."

Orton didn't have anything to add Wednesday.

"I said what I said after the game and stand by it," he said. "To me, it's over with, and now I'm moving on."

Titans coach Jeff Fisher contends that his team doesn't play dirty. It just plays hard.

"You don't hear comments out of teams that are familiar with us along those lines ... from the Texans or anybody else in the division," Fisher said. "It's just kind of one of those things that happened, and we're done with it. We're going to play hard, and if someone doesn't like the way we play, then so be it."

The Titans have committed nine personal-foul penalties, three more than the No. 2 team, the St. Louis Rams, according to STATS LLC. Tennessee is tied for the league lead with 37 penalties, too, and stands atop the NFL with 344 yards in penalties.

But the Titans also are tied for the league lead with 16 sacks and have the stingiest red-zone defense.

As proof that Tennessee teaches its players to push the rules, critics note Fisher played for and coached with Buddy Ryan, as well as defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil's history as a hard-hitting safety who was repeatedly fined.

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Fisher said he isn't concerned with what people say, and Cecil laughed at the thought that his playing days have anything to do with the Titans' reputation.

"I think that would be a stretch that the reason that my team's getting called dirty is because of the hits that I made when I was playing however long ago," said Cecil, who was fined $40,000 by the NFL for making an obsence gesture toward officials during Sunday's game. "I think it's kind of silly."

Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and Cowboys coach Wade Phillips defended the Titans, saying they just play hard.

"They're not any dirtier than any other team," Ward said. "They play all the way to the whistle, and stuff like that. If they do play beyond the whistle, they get fined for it and we go accordingly. But I can't recall them going out of their way to hurt somebody or stuff like that."

Fisher was the defensive backs coach in Philadelphia from 1986 to 1988 when Phillips was the Eagles' defensive coordinator. Phillips doesn't see Fisher's Titans as cheap.

"I disagree with whatever Denver said from watching the film," Phillips said. "I coached with Jeff Fisher, and I know how he coaches and what kind of guy he is. I know what he is telling his players. I see a really hard-working team that gets after you on defense, but that is what defense is all about. I don't see any of that."

How the Titans run to the ball jumps out on film to Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. He doesn't know how someone could see that as being cheap.

"They just play hard, and so you have to match that intensity," Witten said.

The Tennessean has tracked the fine money racked up by the Titans, and that number had reached $47,500 before the loss to the Broncos. Tennessee finished the game with a season-high 111 yards in penalties, including 49 yards on a pass-interference call and 15 yards for tackle Sen'Derrick Marks taking down Orton. Replays showed Marks hitting Orton around the thighs.

Both Fisher and Cecil said officials are erring on the side of safety in protecting quarterbacks.

"We're not doing anything intentionally illegal anyway, so there's nothing for us to worry about getting called for," Cecil said. "We're going to play hard. That's what we do."

Titans defensive end Dave Ball, who has a team-high 4½ sacks, said Orton was complaining to officials throughout the game.

"We're not trying to hurt anybody ... by doing cheap stuff," Ball said. "We're trying to hurt them by doing legal stuff, by hitting them with our shoulder pads."

If opponents worry about the Titans, safety Chris Hope said so be it. That won't change how the Titans play, although they do want to eliminate the offside calls and neutral-zone infractions from trying to jump the snap.

"While the play is going on, we're going to play 100 mph and full speed," Hope said.

Notes: Titans LB Gerald McRath returned from a four-game suspension and worked with the first-team defense Wednesday, putting him on track to start this weekend, a team source told NFL.com senior writer Steve Wyche. Titans coach Jeff Fisher wouldn't fully confirm McRath's status for Sunday, saying only that the linebacker wouldn't play in nickel and dime packages. McRath was suspended for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. ... Marks (right knee), LG Leroy Harris (ankle), WR Justin Gage (left hamstring) and DT Tony Brown (right knee) didn't practice. DE Jacob Ford (right ankle) worked out with the team for the first time since he was hurt Sept. 19.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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