NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jevon Kearse is still working himself back into shape. But make no mistake, he's having fun.
The Tennessee Titans' defensive end almost skipped off the field in Jacksonville last weekend.
''I still have a whole lot penned up, but it's not going to all come out at once,'' he said.
Kearse missed all but two plays of the first 13 games this season because of a broken left foot. Now the Titans' sack leader in each of his first three years is showing perfect timing as Tennessee (10-5) tries to secure at least the AFC's No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
In two games he already has two sacks. His presence has forced opponents to double-team him in his limited duty, and his enthusiasm has energized teammates, who have seven of their 37 sacks since his return.
When he finally returned Dec. 16, he walked on the field and tossed off his helmet before slumping to his knees and pointing skyward, soaking in the roaring approval of a sold-out crowd at The Coliseum.
Against the Jaguars, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Kearse was euphoric following his sack of Mark Brunell, his first this season. He added a second sack in the fourth quarter against backup David Garrard.
''I just line up and play,'' Kearse said. ''I can't tell during the week because I'm getting in a certain number of reps. I think I'm in good enough shape to go out there and give them all I have.''
Kearse is only the third player in NFL history to record double-digit sacks in each of his first three seasons. He has several incentives to boost his pay through playing time and sack totals this season.
The Titans and Kearse thought he might return in six-to-eight weeks but Kearse was slowed by soreness and swelling in the foot in which he pushes off. He chose to be cautious, wanting to make sure the fifth metatarsal, which needed a screw, was sufficiently healed.
The rush to return eased when the Titans went on a tear, winning nine of their last 10. Kearse watched and promised he could make up for his time lost in the playoffs.
''I never wished I was hurt, but to have a chance to come back like this and for the guys to hold it down and win some games to get us in the playoffs, and for me to just come back at a time like this, you can say it's a good feeling,'' Kearse said. ''Then again, I'm just a part of this team making plays with the players that we have.''
The Titans survived without Kearse because Kevin Carter has a team-high 8 1/2 sacks and Carlos Hall, their 10th and final draft pick out of Arkansas, has eight.
Now they have the chance to put Kearse on the field with Carter, Hall and rookie tackle Albert Haynesworth, who is blooming late. Coach Jeff Fisher called the group an impressive sight, but he can't wait until Kearse is ready to play every down.
''When he comes back on first and second down is when I think we'll see a big difference,'' Fisher said. ''When he's out there, they're expecting him to rush. The question is how effective can he be in those non-obvious passing situations. He was very effective for us before.''
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