"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. In today's edition, I take a look at several side storylines related to today's Titans vs. Browns game, including Alex Mack's motivation as he faces Shaun Smith, the late signing of Donnie Avery to replace Kenny Britt, why the Titans will be playing with a heavy heart, and more.
One of the "rivalries" to watch out for in today's game is Browns center Alex Mack going up against Titans defensive lineman Shaun Smith. They butted heads when they were former teammates on the Browns, and last year they squared off against each other in the second week of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs. After the game, Mack accused Smith of grabbing his private parts during the game. Video tapes showed Smith grabbing another player's private parts the following week. Ultimately, the NFL ruled in Smith's favor and did not fine him. You can tell why Smith might have gotten under Mack's skin when he was here.
"During his rookie year, I used to tell him he should give his money back. I used to tell him he wasn’t worth a first-round pick," Smith said. "It’s nothing personal or anything like that. That’s just how I felt." Smith admitted that Mack is a "pretty good player," but I'm sure Mack will still have a little extra motivation to stonewall Smith today.
The Titans signed former St. Louis Rams receiver Donnie Avery to replace Kenny Britt on their roster. Britt suffered a season-ending injury against the Denver Broncos last week. Avery is coming off of an ACL injury himself, which is why he was not able to draw much interest from teams up until this point. The question is, will the Titans have Avery active against the Browns later today? The Titans will start Damian Williams in place of Britt, but if Avery has picked up enough of the offense this week, he could be the third receiver. I know it has been a long time since he has played, but this is a guy who had over 100 receptions for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Part of the reason the team signed Avery instead of former Titans receiver Justin Gage is because they wanted Avery to serve as a consultant of sorts to Britt has he makes his recovery.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and across the league today, including at Cleveland Browns Stadium, you'll be seeing a lot of pink. That includes pink wristbands, gloves, and shoes. Pink ribbons will also be stenciled on the game balls and the field, while the padding on the goal posts will also be pink. Fans will also be given pink ribbons before the game to show their support for a good cause.
The Titans could very well be playing with a heavy heart in today's game. The team's former offensive coordinator, Mike Heimerdinger, passed away Friday after a nearly yearlong battle with cancer. Current Titans head coach Mike Munchek, who served as the offensive line coach under Heimerdinger, had this to say:
"My prayers are with his family," Munchak said. "Mike was a great football coach; and over the years, we had a great relationship. I learned a lot of football from Mike and I have a number of great memories and experiences that will always be with me. It is just hard to believe he is gone. It is a sad day for his family and for those who knew him."
Heimerdinger was with the Titans off-and-on during the Steve McNair and Vince Young days. He was replaced in February by none other than former Browns head coach Chris Palmer, who, ironically enough, already had his own reasons for wanting to get a win in Cleveland.
I am still concerned about how the wind will hurt the Browns' passing game today. In the morning, it was estimated that winds have been blowing up to 30 MPH in the Cleveland area. Closer to game time, it sounds like the winds could lessen to a more reasonable 20 MPH, but there is a chance of rainfall during the game. Around the rest of the division, Pittsburgh faces Houston, the Jets battle Baltimore, and the Bengals have a date with Buffalo. Everyone in the AFC North is facing a team with a 2-1 record or better, so this will be a good test to see who stands where. Right now, I'm going with Pittsburgh and Cleveland to win, and Baltimore and Cincinnati to lose.
It'll also be interesting to see who is on Cleveland's inactive list. This was the first time all season that everyone practiced during the week. There's a chance that linebacker Titus Brown and safety Eric Hagg could be ready to contribute, and Tony Pashos will start at right tackle too. My guess is that the seven inactive players will include: QB Thaddeus Lewis, RB Armond Smith, WR Carlton Mitchell, TE Jordan Cameron, OL Oniel Cousins, OL Steve Vallos, and LB Quinton Spears.