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Monday, July 6, 2009
Fisher: Focus on McNair's positives

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As fans mourn former Titans quarterback Steve McNair and await the final determination of a police investigation, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher asked that fans put aside the circumstances of McNair's homicide and reflect on his good qualities and résumé instead.

Speaking publicly for the first time since he returned from a trip to the Middle East to visit with troops, a bleary-eyed Fisher said McNair led a group of players that "put this franchise on the map" and talked of the toughness and leadership that were McNair's hallmarks.

"My hope is that we can get past the circumstances and let those go, OK, and dwell and stay focused on the type of player and person that he was," Fisher said.

Saturday McNair was shot twice in the head and twice in the chest in a downtown condominium. The woman with him, 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi, died from a gunshot to the head. The gun was found beneath her. Police haven't been searching for a suspect. They've ruled McNair's death a homicide but have not ruled on Kazemi's death yet.

As if channeling a player who guided the Titans to only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, Fisher said: "The Steve McNair that I knew would want me to say, 'I'm sorry, I'm not perfect, we all make decisions sometimes that are not in our best interests, please forgive me.' The Steve McNair that I know would want me to say, 'Celebrate my life for what I did on the field, for what I did in the community, for the kind of teammate that I was.'"

Eddie George, the running back who lined up in the backfield with McNair for eight seasons, delivered the news of McNair's death when his call to Fisher's cell phone got through to him in Kuwait. He and three others -- former tackle Brad Hopkins, former safety Blaine Bishop and current long-snapper Ken Amato -- sat beside Fisher while the coach spoke.

George spoke briefly at the podium too, echoing Fisher's theme.

"Like Jeff mentioned, [we can] get past the circumstances and look at the human being we were all impacted by," George said. "He blessed us with so many memories, so many great times. He really has had a positive impact on this community and we'll miss him dearly."

Fisher said his last visit with McNair at the coach's charity softball game June 20 suggested McNair was thinking about getting into coaching. Fisher invited him to spend time with the team during training camp. The coach joked about the contrast of McNair's intense drive and motivation with his devotion to "Gunsmoke" and Andy Griffith on TV.

Hopkins, who protected McNair's blindside, spoke more angrily than Fisher or George.

"It's so attention getting, here now it's not just a story about a man who's been shot," he said. "It's now the saga, the soap opera which has lead up to his death. And yeah, that sounds sexy and that's attractive and everybody wants to be a part of that, just finding out more and more dirt."

Paul Kuharsky covers the AFC South for ESPN.com.