Thumbs up for McNair?

11-15-01, 5:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Word out of Nashville Thursday is Titans quarterback Steve McNair still couldn't grip a football, but coach Jeff Fisher is hoping he'll throw Friday.

Meanwhile, Titans safety Blaine Bishop is extremely doubtful for Sunday's game against the Bengals with an injured foot that doesn't alllow him to cut. Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson is still questionable after his second practice back from breaking his left collarbone and the coaches want to take a look at him Friday.

McNair, out of a cast Thursday, still had the thumb in a splint. It's the same thumb in which he had a

hairline fracture last year and even though he couldn't grip the ball until pre-game warmups, he hit 13 of 24 passes for 228 yards in a 16-13 loss in Jacksonville. McNair said Thursday this injury is giving him more pain but that he'll still play.

The Titans could end up with just two tight ends Sunday. Frank Wycheck, their leading receiver, didn't practice Thursday with a sore ankle but is expected to play. Yet Erron Kinney (calf) and Shad Meier, whose thumb is in a cast, don't look ready.

For the Bengals, linebacker Takeo Spikes and defensive lineman Glen Steele (groin) are to return to practice Friday. Tight end Tony McGee (knee) and end Vaughn Booker (elbow) worked Thursday, as did linebacker Adrian Ross (shoulder) and cornerback Mark Roman (thigh).

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