Young runs away with rookie honor


Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

NEW YORK — Vince Young looks as if he'll make the NFL his personal playground, too.

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The Associated Press

The dynamic quarterback for the Tennessee Titans won The Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year Award on Wednesday. He did it in the same fashion he turned around the Titans' season — running away from the rest of the field.

Young, who led Texas to the 2005 national championship and was the third overall pick in last April's draft, overwhelmed one of the strongest rookie classes in NFL history. He received 23 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league.

That easily beat New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston and Jacksonville running back Maurice Drew, who had nine apiece; San Diego tackle Marcus McNeill (6); and Saints running back Reggie Bush (3).

Running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams of Tampa Bay won the award last year. Young is the third member of the Tennessee-Houston franchise to take top rookie honors: Earl Campbell in 1978 and Eddie George in 1996 did it for the Houston Oilers.

Young was the catalyst in Tennessee' rally from 0-5 to 8-8, at times looking as unstoppable for the Titans as he did with the Longhorns. A starter from Week 4, Young sprinkled all kinds of spectacular big plays with a growing maturity in joining Ben Roethlisberger (2004) as the only quarterbacks to win top rookie honors in the 49-year history of the award.

"A lot of people said it couldn't be done, especially at my position," Young said Wednesday from Houston. "I just worked hard to get to that position behind the scenes, to get to the point of getting into the race of trying to get rookie of the year."

Young became the first rookie quarterback to rush for more than 500 yards in the Super Bowl era, and his passing skills improved all year under coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

"I like to go out there and play the game and show that I can deliver the ball down the field, and that I can use my legs at the right time, when its time to use my legs, and checking the ball down, just being a quarterback," Young said. "I want to change the game a little bit."

He's already helped change the perception of what a first-year quarterback can do given playing time. Young sat and learned for barely a month while Kerry Collins started and the Titans struggled. Then Fisher turned to the youngster well before he'd planned.

And Young delivered as the Titans threatened to become the first team to lose its opening five games and then make the playoffs. They were in contention until the final weekend, thanks greatly to a six-game winning streak that included a remarkable comeback from 21-0 down in the final 10 minutes to beat the Giants.

"Everything took off from that game," Young admitted.

RYANS TOP DEFENSIVE ROOKIE

Gary Kubiak had gotten used to the Texans' penchant for tapping on the tables in the meeting room when they approved of or respected what he was saying.

But even he was blown away by their reaction when he talked recently about rookie linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

"They banged on the tables as hard as I've heard them bang since I've been here," he said. "So I think that day our team let us know what they think of that kid and I think he's a leader, if not the leader on this team."

And on Wednesday, those outside of the organization showed their respect for Ryans when he was voted The Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year, making him the first Texan to win the honor.

Ryans, the first pick in the second round, easily outshined top overall pick Mario Williams by leading the league in solo tackles with 126. His 156 total tackles were the most by a rookie in the last 20 years and he also had 3 sacks.

He received 36 of the 50 votes by a nationwide panel of sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL. Second was Chicago end Mark Anderson, who was Ryans' teammate at Alabama, with five votes. Green Bay linebacker A. J. Hawk was next with four, while Cleveland LB Kamerion Wimbley got two votes.

COLTS

Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne, tight end Dallas Clark and safety Bob Sanders all practiced Wednesday for the Colts, making it more likely the three starters would play in Saturday's wild-card game against Kansas City.

All three are still listed as questionable on Indianapolis' injury report.

Sanders has missed 12 of the last 14 games after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, and his return is expected to help solidify the league's worst run defense against Larry Johnson.

SAINTS

New Orleans Saints' defensive tackle Hollis Thomas and veteran receiver Joe Horn each missed the last four games of the regular season, for very different reasons.

Thomas will be back for the Saints' second-round playoff game, following a suspension. Whether Horn has recovered enough from a groin injury to play still isn't certain.

While his teammates got the first part of the week off, Thomas worked out at the Saints' training headquarters, looking fresh and fit, coach Sean Payton said Wednesday.

COWBOYS

Bill Parcells already has a plan for what he's going to do after the season.

But he wouldn't say Wednesday whether he will return next season to finish his contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

The coach said he and owner Jerry Jones "have an understanding as to what's going to happen" and a timetable for it. "Without question, there's no doubt about what's in place, what we're doing to talk about," the 65-year-old Parcells said, without elaborating. "We'll talk about it and then that will be that."

There are the same questions about Parcells' future as there were last January, when he still had a year left on his original $17 million, four-year contract. Jones then gave Parcells a new two-year deal through 2007.

SEAHAWKS

Another week, another MASH-like stable of Seahawks injuries.

Leading receiver and former UF standout Darrell Jackson, plus starting offensive linemen Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray and Floyd Womack, are all questionable for Seattle's NFC wild-card playoff game Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Jackson was leading the NFL in touchdown receptions a month ago before he got his left foot caught in the turf Dec. 10 while an Arizona defender jumped on him. He missed Seattle's last three regular-season games, and did not even make the trip to his home state for last Sunday's win at Tampa Bay.

CHIEFS

Trent Green's sore ankle limited him in practice Wednesday and there are signs Kansas City coach Herm Edwards may have his struggling quarterback on a short leash.

Green, who committed three turnovers and got booed in Sunday's playoff-clinching victory over Jacksonville, is still slated to start Saturday at Indianapolis.

But waiting in the wings is fan favorite Damon Huard, who was an impressive 5-3 in eight starts while Green recuperated from a severe concussion sustained in the season opener.

"I anticipate (Green) starting," Edwards said Wednesday. "But we'll see how far he comes along tomorrow."

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