After magical season, Titans' Collins in Hawaii wondering about future

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- Kerry Collins is appearing in only the second Pro Bowl of his 14-year career as an NFL quarterback.

The Tennessee Titans' quarterback got here because Brett Favre pulled out of the game. However, for Collins, that doesn't taint the opportunity in the slightest.

"It's a real honor, it's a real thrill," he said. "The best of the best are here, and it's a real treat to see some of them work."

The AFC depth chart lists Collins as a backup, along with Denver's Jay Cutler, behind Peyton Manning of Indianapolis. Collins is fine with that. After all, Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and this marks his ninth Pro Bowl appearance.

But Collins won't settle for beginning the 2009 season the way he started 2008 -- as the No. 2 quarterback for the Titans.

"I feel like I'm a starter in this league," he said. "Whether it's in Tennessee or someplace else, I feel that's where I'm at in my career."

After a knee injury forced Vince Young to leave late in the Titans' 17-10 season-opening victory against Jacksonville, Collins took over. With 4:14 left in the game and faced with a third-and-15 from the Tennessee 30, Collins completed a short pass that tight end Bo Scaife turned into a 44-yard gain that would lead to the decisive touchdown.

A week later, Collins moved into the starting spot. He never left.

The Titans proceeded to finish the season with an NFL-best 13-3 record. Their defense, which ranked seventh overall and is represented here by four players, had plenty to do with that. So did their running game, which also ranked seventh and had a Pro Bowl choice in rookie Chris Johnson, who had to pull out of the game with an injury.

Still, Collins played an important role in the Titans' success. He had a solid season in a run-oriented offense that wasn't loaded with game-breaking receivers and didn't ask him to make too many big plays. Collins completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards and 12 touchdowns, while throwing only seven interceptions. His passer rating of 80.2 was slightly better than that of Ben Roethlisberger, who helped Pittsburgh win a sixth Super Bowl.

Collins' contract is up. Whether he can agree on a new one with the Titans is anyone's guess, particularly because of his insistence on being the starter. Having made Young the third overall pick of the 2006 draft, the Titans just might not be inclined to promise the job to Collins, who turned 36 in December.

"Definitely a factor in this is the fact that Vince was a high draft pick and they do have a lot of money invested in him," Collins said.

For now, his contractual status is up the air.

"I don't know," Collins said. "There haven't been a lot of talks right now, but hopefully we'll work something out. And if it works out, great. I'd love to be in Tennessee. But who knows what's going to happen?

"I still feel like I've got several years of good football. Physically, I feel great."

Collins and the Titans seemed destined for the sort of magical season that 37-year-old Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals enjoyed.

The Titans wound up outplaying the Baltimore Ravens in almost every respect in a divisional-round playoff game at LP Field. They had 391 yards of offense to the Ravens' 211. They generated 21 first downs to Baltimore's nine.

Yet, they turned the ball over three times in Ravens territory, including an interception by Collins, on the way to a 13-10 loss.

"It's disappointing, just from the fact that we had the best record in the NFL and were the number one seed and the whole deal," Collins said. "We did some things that we hadn't been doing in that game and that ultimately cost us the game.

"But that's the way it is in the NFL."

A veteran quarterback who leads a team to a 13-win season isn't necessarily assured of remaining with that club. That, too, is the way it is in the NFL.

"I'm hopeful things will work out," Collins said. "But I'm also realistic to know what the situation is."

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