Here are some whispers we've been hearing from around the AFC South:
• The Texans downplayed an incident between DE Antonio Smith and SLB Brian Cushing in the Week 15 loss at Tennessee, during which Cushing's helmet came off — which caused some to suggest that the two players were fighting. Smith's explanation: "What happened is he came to me, and I can't remember what he said, but he grabbed me and head-butted me. It was a in-the-heat-of-the-moment type thing. I grabbed his facemask to pull him close to me so we can get eye-to-eye to say what I had to say, and as we are doing that, teammates come in between and the helmet comes off and it looks like a big ordeal." Said Cushing later: "I patched things up with Antonio right after the play."
• Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew (knee), who missed two consecutive days of practice for the first time this season leading up to the Week 15 loss to the Colts, was clearly not himself in Indy. Coming off six straight 100-yard rushing efforts, Jones-Drew managed only 46 yards on 15 carries. We're told that the diminutive back has not been effective when he is playing at less than 100 percent, as witnessed by his 14-game stretch — the final seven games of 2009 and the first seven games of '10 — when he notched only two 100-yard rushing days. Jones-Drew is in his second full season as the Jaguars' featured back, and word is the pounding he subjects himself to limits his effectiveness. He didn't practice at all leading up to the Week 16 game vs. Washington and was listed as doubtful on the injury report.
• How Titans C Fernando Velasco fares during his stint in the starting lineup could go a long way in determining whether he vies for a bigger role next season, the way we hear it. Velasco is filling in for Eugene Amano, who is out for the season with a neck injury.
• The signing of Colts RB Dominic Rhodes was a "much-needed shot in the arm," according to QB Peyton Manning. Rhodes looked good in his first significant action in Week 15, spelling Donald Brown with nine carries for 26 yards, one reception for four yards and a terrific block on blitzing Jaguars LB Daryl Smith. Word is Rhodes' biggest contribution to the team could come from his contagious energy and excitement that we hear was noticeably present from the moment he walked onto the practice field after being re-signed.