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Tennessean: Kearse a Titan at Heart

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Not too sure I'd like my $60mill DE talking like this if I were an iggle fan:



Staff Writer

LEBANON — Once a Titan, always a Titan. At least that's what he thought.

After all, he was a fan favorite from his first days at the Coliseum. His jersey flew off the shelves, and his success with the team earned him national recognition.

It's still hard to imagine the Titans without him.

Eddie George? Well, yeah …

But it all also applies to Jevon Kearse.

''To be honest, it still hasn't sunk in that I'm not here, that I'm not a Titan any more,'' Kearse said yesterday. ''Sometimes I'll be doing autographs and I'll put down 'Jevon Kearse. The Freak. Go Titans!' Ah man, I still do that.

''This was all I knew and it was pretty much all I wanted to know.''

Kearse is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. The defensive end signed an eight-year, $66 million contract with Philadelphia in March after the Titans decided not to place the franchise tag on him, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Kearse was at Cumberland University yesterday for the 2004 Offense-Defense football camp. He'll be back in Philadelphia today for the team's minicamp.

Until yesterday, he had not addressed his departure from the Titans with the local media.

''I always expected things to get worked out (with the Titans),'' said Kearse, a first-round draft pick by the team in 1999. ''For the things that I did and how much the fans really dug me, took a liking to me, plus what I did on the football field, I kind of felt like there was no way they would even let me get up out of here.

''But it didn't work out, I guess because of their cap situation. I think if something could have been done, I would still be here. Hey, I still wouldn't mind finishing up my career here, it was a lot of fun. But we'll just have to see what happens down the road.''

Kearse, 27, recently sold his home in Brentwood and bought a house on five acres in Moorestown, N.J., about a 30-minute drive from the team's training facility in Philadelphia. He spent Sunday evening with Titans cornerback Samari Rolle, and said he tries his best to keep in touch with his friends in town.

He's also paid attention to the recent developments with George, whose future with the Titans is also unclear because of questions about his salary and playing time. If something isn't worked out soon, he could be released and free to seek employment elsewhere, a situation Kearse became familiar with a few months ago.

''I never would have thought two people from the team, first me and then Eddie maybe, would have something happen to us in the same year,'' Kearse said. ''You're talking about two of the top fan favorites, guys who were popular with the fans, and that is who is paying the salaries, the fans.

''I see a lot of people getting rid of a lot of jerseys, burning them up. If Eddie is (gone), it won't hit him until down the road, I know that. I've been in camps with (the Eagles) and it still hasn't hit me.''

With the Eagles, Kearse has worked so far on the left side of the defensive line, where he had his best success with the Titans. During the '99 and 2000 seasons, Kearse racked up 26 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl each year playing on the left side.

The Titans moved Kearse to right defensive end in 2001, and he had 10 sacks that season. He was slowed in '02 and '03 with injuries, the biggest setback coming when he suffered a broken left foot in the opening game of the '02 season, against the Eagles.

Kearse, who recorded 47.5 sacks and was named to three Pro Bowls in his five seasons with the Titans, said he'll probably work at right defensive end in the upcoming camps so he'll be equipped to play on both sides.

''It is a totally different system (in Philadelphia) than what we had here, so I feel like I am back in '99 trying to learn the defense and trying to find out what to do,'' Kearse said.

''The coaches are doing a good job working with me. Then again they are expecting me to catch on as soon as they tell me. I am more like, 'You can tell me, you can show me on the board, but until we get out there and do it and I can see for myself the things that are different, then that is when I'll catch on.' I'll get there.''

But Kearse said the biggest adjustment might come off the field. While he's spent a good part of his offseason in North Miami Beach, he has been in the Philadelphia area long enough to know it's a lot different from Nashville.

And he's already heard horror stories about the fans in Philly.

''There is no Southern hospitality up there. You can tell a difference. It is very genuine down here, and I am definitely going to miss that,'' Kearse said.

''People there get nice when they find out who I am or what I do. But I am not going to let them change me to lose my Southern hospitality. I am going to try my best to train folks up there to be more hospitable, but I don't think it's going to work.''

Football camp: Former Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse worked with youngsters in the Offense-Defense camp yesterday at Cumberland University. The camp, in its 35th year, is for players between the ages of 5-18.

This year's camp at Cumberland is already full, but similar camps will be held in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Atlanta later this month. Prices for the camp depend on whether a child stays overnight or just during the day sessions.

For information, or for possible dates for next year's camp in the Midstate area, call 1-888-963-2267 or 1-203-256-1111 or go online to www.O-D.com. Offense-Defense is the official camp of the National Football League Coaches Association.

Jim Wyatt covers the Titans for The Tennessean. He can be reached at 259-8015 or jimwyatt111@hotmail.com.

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And he's already heard horror stories about the fans in Philly.

''There is no Southern hospitality up there. You can tell a difference. It is very genuine down here, and I am definitely going to miss that,'' Kearse said.

Wait until Jevon gets to experience that love on game days.

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