NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee Titans quarterback Kerry Collins and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis agree on one thing. Eight years is a long time, especially in the NFL.
But no so long that anyone who saw the Ravens' Super Bowl victory over New York in January 2001 would forget the way Baltimore's ferocious defense hounded Collins, then with the Giants, into one of the most miserable days ever suffered by a quarterback in the NFL's championship game - 15 completions in 39 attempts for 112 yards and four interceptions.
"We're a totally different defense, they're a totally different offense and he's with a totally different team," Lewis said yesterday as the two teams prepare for Saturday's playoff game at LP Field.
Collins also consigned the nightmare to history's dustbin.
"It's been a long time since I watched that game," he said while standing in front his locker.
And though he isn't eager to dwell on that Super Bowl, Collins, now in his 14th NFL season and his third with the Titans, would like to think he's a different quarterback.
"I just think my personal maturity has helped," he said. "Becoming older, understanding the game better, hopefully being smarter, making better decisions. You live and learn, and I've had eight years to live and learn, so hopefully, I'm better off than I was."
Interestingly, Collins, the veteran, has been asked to do much the same as Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco this season, meaning manage the game with a strong running attack and keep turnovers to a minimum while an outstanding defense pounds the opposition.
Since relieving the injured Vince Young as the starter in Game 2, Collins has completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has been sacked just eight times.
The Titans' 13-10 win over the Ravens on Oct. 5 was one of Collins' rockier days - he threw two interceptions - but he also led the Titans on an 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter using short and intermediate passes, mostly to his tight ends.
"It's got to be part of your game plan because [the Ravens] rush the passer so well. They do a good job of keeping things in front of them," Collins said of the three- and five-step passing plays. "But at the same time, you can't just live on that. You've got to be able to have the deeper drops as part of your game plan, too."
Although Collins has not been asked to carry the Titans offensively, his veteran presence is just what Tennessee needed as the career of former first-round draft pick Young foundered.
"He knows his job well and he helps us with it," Titans running back LenDale White said of Collins. "If there's a place you're supposed to be, he makes sure you're there. If we're not lined up, he can stop it and make sure everyone is in the perfect spot. Not saying that Vince doesn't do that, but Kerry has been around for a long time, he's been to the Super Bowl ... he's done a lot of things in his career."
And whether there were doubts that he could do it against his old nemesis, the Ravens, Collins seemed to quiet them in that fourth quarter earlier this year.
"We had to put something together and he completed a lot of passes. Bo Scaife, Alge Crumpler came up with some key [catches]. ... Kerry always has the faith," White said. "No matter how many interceptions, how many sacks, he's going to keep throwing and expect our guys to make plays."
Notes: : Titans center Kevin Mawae, who has an elbow injury, did not practice yesterday and said in a radio interview he was pessimistic about his chances of playing against the Ravens. "We're preparing like I'm not" playing, Mawae said on Sirius NFL Radio. "Leroy Harris is taking the snaps right now, and my job is just to get healthy and get stronger. But the final decision has not been made yet." ... Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (knee) and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) did practice. Haynesworth missed the last two games of the season, and Vanden Bosch missed the last three. Titans coach Jeff Fisher said that though the two worked yesterday, he couldn't predict how much either will play Saturday. Tennessee had 44 sacks this season; the defensive line accounted for 39.5.