NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 17, 2005) -- For a change, the toughest part of Steve McNair's offseason didn't involve doctors, hospitals or antibiotics.
No, the Tennessee quarterback's biggest challenge this year was to stop eating certain foods.
"I was eating too much of Mom's cooking," McNair said with a laugh.
The discipline showed May 17 when a much leaner McNair took the field in the Titans' first organized workout of their offseason program. He doesn't plan to weigh himself until he has to step on a scale in training camp, but looked at least 15 pounds lighter than last season.
McNair, who turned 32 in February, missed a career high eight games because of injury in 2004. Losing weight is part of his plan to become faster and more nimble, the kind of quarterback who can play an entire season.
"I'm going to try to lose as much as I can so I can be that limber kind of lean guy I was before, take some pounds off so I can compete," the 10-year veteran said. "The new guys coming in these days are big and fast.
"I'm not getting any younger. I need to take every precaution and take every advantage."
The last time McNair met with the media, he had just decided to have doctors try to repair his aching chest by grafting a sliver of bone onto his sternum. It was that surgery in December that helped McNair stop talking about retirement and start looking forward to playing more football.
"After the doctors told me the bone was healing and it was growing, that's when my mental aspect eased off," McNair said. "Two weeks after that, I started throwing. I felt good. I didn't feel any pain."
But McNair realized he also needed to take advantage and spend his offseason working out. He said he had been so busy healing over the past five years that he usually found himself trying to get in shape during training camp.
The quarterback who shared the NFL's MVP award with Peyton Manning in 2003 is doing 90 minutes of cardiovascular work each day. He has a personal trainer work with him whenever he's back home in Mississippi, and the man who always has been naturally strong now spends time in the weight room.
McNair says he has improved his speed while strengthening his hips, chest, abdominal muscles and back -- which was surgically repaired in 1999.
"He's worked very hard since leaving in January as we said to get himself in great shape," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He's in great shape right now. He feels really good."
Seeing a healthy and happy McNair is a good sight for a very young team. Linebacker Keith Bulluck guessed that McNair has lost 18 pounds.
"I'm just happy to see him out there," Bulluck said. "All that retirement talk, this that and the other, I think we're going to do a lot of things this year to make people give him the respect that he deserves as one of the top quarterbacks in this league."
McNair lost his favorite target when the Titans chose to cut Derrick Mason for salary-cap reasons, leaving Drew Bennett as the only proven receiver. But McNair said he likes the energy of a very young receiving corps stocked with three draft picks, especially after hooking up with Brandon Jones on a long throw down the middle Tuesday.
If McNair can keep feeling this good, he sees no reason not to continue playing after this season.
"But if something down the road happens that's going to limit my performance and limit me from what I do best -- and that's moving on the run, throwing on the run, making things happen with my legs and throwing the football -- when it slows down, that's when I would likely call it quits," he said.