The first media questions to Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt during the team's annual caravan stop in Chattanooga on Wednesday understandably focused on his surgically repaired right knee.
"It's feeling great," he said of the season-ending injury he suffered three games into the 2011 campaign.
"A little swollen some days. But that comes with it. I ran a 100-yard dash in 16 seconds the other day. I was really happy with that."
But that's not the only reason Britt is flashing one of the NFL's brightest smiles these days.
"I got married a couple of months ago," he said of longtime girlfriend Sabrina. "We had a baby girl [Ava] last summer, so it felt like we were a family even before the wedding. I grew up with a mother and father, and this is what I've wanted my whole life."
Before going down in the second quarter against Denver at LP Field last Sept. 25, Britt appeared headed for the kind of season any receiver would wish for his whole life.
Heading into that Denver game he's already caught 271 yards worth of passes and scored three touchdowns.
And all of this after catching at least 700 yards in each of his first two seasons, including a stunning performance against Philadelphia in 2010 in which he totaled 225 yards and three touchdowns.
"Kenny's everything you want in a wide receiver, the whole package," said second-year quarterback Jake Locker, who'll battle veteran Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job.
"He's big, fast, has good hands, runs well with the ball in his hands, runs good routes."
And just in case Britt isn't 100 percent when New England's Patriots arrive at LP to begin the 2012 season, the Titans drafted wideout Kendall Wright from Baylor.
"I thought our receivers were great last year," said Locker. "But adding another won can only make us that much tougher to defend."
Yet the 6-3, 215-pound Britt is almost certainly the key to that group's success, that rare specimen who can double as a possession receiver and a game-breaker.
"I'm praying that I'll be back for the first game," Britt said. "It's going well, but it's tough. We had the lockout last summer, then I got hurt and didn't get to practice after the third week. Now we're back on the field, and I'm still in the same spot. I go to meetings and watch film, but I can't go full-speed yet."
Judging from the crowd of close to 300 who snaked through Academy Sports and Outdoors at Hamilton Place to have something autographed by both Locker and Britt, the Titans' fans are full-speed ahead to begin the season, even though the Patriots won't arrive at LP Field for another 123 days.
"I think they're going 10-6, I think they'll make the playoffs," said Chris Wilson, who boldly wore an Atlanta Falcons cap, an ill-fated fashion statement that earned the angry gesture of a raised leg from Titans mascot T-Rac.
That sounds just fine to Locker, who said, "I think we had the same record last year (9-7) as the Super Bowl champs. I think we're going to be a really good football team."
But for them to be better than good, for the Titans to make a serious run at the Super Bowl for the first time since posting the AFC's best regular-season record in 2008, they need for Britt to be his best.
"Everybody wants to know [about the knee]," he said. "My wife asks about it almost every day. My father calls almost every night."
And just to make sure the world knows that Britt's previous off-field escapades are at an end, he said, "My wife's had me on lockdown ever since the wedding."
If Britt can't be locked down by the NFL's secondaries, the Titans could once again be a lock for the postseason, which should encourage T-Rac to raise both his arms in delight rather than one leg in disgust.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...