Titans OC Heimerdinger has cancer, will undergo treatment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger has been diagnosed with cancer and is expected to start chemotherapy treatment almost immediately.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher announced Wednesday that Heimerdinger has been very sick the past three weeks but learned the diagnosis Wednesday morning. Heimerdinger wasn't at practice, and Fisher declined to specify what type of cancer it is, but he asked for prayers for both the coach and his family.

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"Mike is going to be, potentially as early as today, undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment," Fisher said. "I don't know whether Mike will be back tomorrow, whether he'll be here Friday or Saturday or whether or not he'll be able to participate in coaching this game. I want you all to pray for Mike, like we have been doing all morning."

The Titans (5-5) visit the Houston Texans (4-6) on Sunday, just one game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South despite a three-game skid.

This is the latest news for a Tennessee team that's dealing with quarterback Vince Young's meltdown during last Sunday's 19-16 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins. But Heimerdinger's diagnosis overshadows Young suffering a torn flexor tendon, tossing his pads into the stands, having a heated exchange with Fisher in the locker room before storming out, then being told not to attend a team meeting Monday.

"What he's done over the last couple of weeks considering how he felt is absolutely remarkable, it is remarkable," Fisher said of Heimerdnger.

"When you add the events of the weekend to that, it just doesn't make sense. In any case, the Vince Young stuff is behind us. We're going to move on and get ready to play a football game. Our guys are going to play hard. The players know, I informed them this morning, and they understand that they are going to have to do a little bit extra."

The Titans concluded practice with a team prayer led by linebacker David Thornton.

"I'm not really good at saying or talking about things like that, so thoughts and prayers go out to his family," wide receiver Randy Moss said. "Hopefully, his chemo and everything goes good, and we see him back as soon as he's ready."

Heimerdinger, 58, is in his second stint as the Titans' offensive coordinator. The man called "Dinger" was college roommates with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and helped coach then-Titans quarterback Steve McNair to co-NFL MVP honors with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in 2003 during his first run as offensive coordinator in Tennessee.

Heimerdinger spent 2005 as the New York Jets' offensive coordinator before returning to work with Shanahan in Denver as the Broncos' assistant head coach in 2006 and 2007. Heimerdinger returned to the Titans in 2008.

Titans quarterback Kerry Collins said he has grown close to Heimerdinger over the past few years. Players knew Heimerdinger had been having some health issues but had worked through them the past couple weeks, not easing up on preparing the Titans to play. The players didn't have a chance to talk with Heimerdinger.

"He needs us right now. He needs us to be supportive," Collins said. "Obviously, all our thoughts and prayers are with him, and I know one thing about Dinger, the guy's a fighter. He's stubborn. He's tough. I know he's going to give everything he has to this fight, and I know he's going to get through it and be fine."

Fisher said he doesn't know if Heimerdinger will be back this week or help coach Sunday's game, which will feature rookie quarterback Rusty Smith making his first career start. Fisher said quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains likely will call plays because he has worked closely with Heimerdinger and the quarterbacks. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak will oversee the running game.

"Everybody is going to have to do a little bit extra, but our focus is on winning the next game, and that is what we are 100 percent committed to do," Fisher said.

Notes: The Titans practiced indoors Wednesday because of rain. ... Seven players didn't practice because of injuries, including WR Kenny Britt, who has missed the past two games with a strained right hamstring. The others were TE Craig Stevens (knee), DT Jason Jones (right knee), DT Tony Brown (right knee), Collins (left calf), DE Dave Ball (concussion) and K Rob Bironas (right groin).

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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