Titans general manager Ruston Webster told LP Field suite holders and coach Mike Munchak told reporters Monday that they were happy with the decision to play Jake Locker a day earlier, and with how the third-year pro performed in his first action since Sept. 29.
Webster told attendees at an appreciation breakfast how determined Locker was to return to the lineup, proclaiming he’d be able to start against San Francisco the week before during a Saturday practice in Seattle. Webster also described the timeline and evaluation process the Titans used to determine how Locker’s sprained hip and knee responded to physical tests during practices and if they would be OK during the game.
“He felt good. He was adamant about playing,” Webster said. “He really wanted to play and that’s just his makeup and the type of guy he is.”
Locker completed 25 of 41 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns and one interception (his first of the season) for a passer rating of 92.1. He also scrambled three times for 29 yards. Although he took three sacks, the second-year starter protected himself by moving around enough despite wearing a brace that gave his knee additional support.
Munchak said Locker experienced some expected soreness but added “I think he’s very happy he played.”
“He was very accurate early, made some nice throws early. He wants the pick back. That was one of the bad balls he threw, but I thought overall (he was) very competitive,” Munchak said. “I never thought once to take him out of that game. I never once thought it was a bad idea. He’s special that way, and I think that’s why we keep saying when the smoke clears the guy is going to be a winner. We’ve got some work ahead of us this year, but it was a good start for him.”
The alternative of not playing against the 49ers, combined with this week’s bye would have meant a span of more than a month without game competition. The Titans (3-4) return to action by visiting the St. Louis Rams (3-4) Nov. 3.
Former Titans quarterback Neil O’Donnell, who joined Webster at the panel discussion led by Jonathan Hutton of Titans Radio and 104.5 The Zone said a gap that long would make the return more challenging.
“I look at Jake with quarterback’s eyes looking out and I wouldn’t want to miss five weeks because it’s almost like missing the whole preseason and coming back opening day: it’s rusty, you have to adjust to the speed of the game, the timing with the wide receivers,” O’Donnell said. “I thought it was very key that he came back and showed us he was capable of playing. I thought he managed the game pretty well.”
Many Titans players departed for their hometowns or college towns Monday for a quick break, but much of Locker’s bye week will be spent in the training room at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
“He’ll just work his knee, keep going through the rehab, keep getting his leg stronger just like he’d normally do if we were playing,” Munchak said. “He’ll probably get a couple days away from here, which he can do. But he’ll be here. The good thing now is all the ‘Is Jake playing?’ ‘How’s he feeling?’ it’s all behind him now. Now we just, as a team, get ready to beat our next opponent.”
Tags: Jake Locker, LP Field, Mike Munchak, Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
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The timeline for Jake Locker’s return will be less about mentality and more about mobility.
In the mind of the third-year quarterback and second-year starter, he’s preparing like he’s going to play, the same way he’s prepped the past two weeks when he was clearly not going to play.
“I think mentally that’s important so you don’t ever lose that edge,” Locker said Thursday. “You prepare like you’re going to play, and I’m doing nothing different this week.”
Locker participated in drills Wednesday and did more Thursday, taking snaps in 11-on-11 and testing his mobility. The Titans also want to see how his body responds, and coach Mike Munchak is waiting to make a decision on Locker’s availability for Sunday when Tennessee (3-3) hosts San Francisco (4-2) at LP Field.
“I just wanted to get in and do everything I could every day to get better and try to get back on the field as soon as possible. That’s what I’ve tried to do and my body has responded well,” Locker said. “There’s certain things that don’t feel normal yet, but I’m feeling pretty good, and every day I’m trying to progress with that stuff. There’s just new things each day and seeing what feels good and where my comfort level is with it.”
Locker has worn a large brace on his leg the past two days, which has given him confidence in his right hip and knee that were sprained on Sept. 29.
Titans coach Mike Munchak increased the simulated stress around Locker during Thursday’s practice to get a more accurate assessment for how he’s progressing.
“He did more individually and (we) pushed him more (Thursday), had him moving more, and those types of things,” Munchak said. “It’s kind of wait and see really where he’s at. We don’t want to ever say he can’t do anything, so we’ll just wait until (Friday) and see.”
The return to that much activity has provided an encouraging lift for Titans players and coaches, who have dropped the past two games.
“It’s good to see him back on the field and able to move around and do some things, so that gives us excitement with where he’s going,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He’s a tough kid, a strong-minded kid and we’re excited about getting him back out here.”
Receiver Nate Washington said as soon as doctors learned Locker hadn’t suffered structural damage, “I knew he was going to be back out there in no time. He’s a fighter, a guy that takes pride in his work.”
Loggains said it was obvious how much Locker wanted to play at Seattle last week because it was so close to Locker’s hometown of Ferndale, Wash.
The Titans have their bye next week, which would allow that much more time to re-establish the rhythm Locker was developing with receivers.
As much as Locker wants to return this week, he said he’d temper that by being “honest with (coaches and trainers) and tell them how I’m feeling and how my body feels, some of the limitations I might have. I think honesty is always the best.”
Tags: Jake Locker, LP Field, Mike Munchak, Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans
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The Titans took a 3-0 lead on the Seahawks by moving 72 yards on nine plays during their second possession. The drive started at the Tennessee 7-yard line, lasted 4:43 and ended with a 38-yard field goal by Rob Bironas.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started in place of injured Jake Locker for the second straight week, completed three straight passes to Kendall Wright and was 4-of-5 passing for 55 yards on the drive. Fitzpatrick also prevented disaster on the first play of the drive when he corralled a high shotgun snap. The next play resulted in a 32-yard gain to Wright, followed by gains of 11 and 4. Fitzpatrick scrambled for a gain of 5 and drew a penalty against Richard Sherman on a late hit out of bounds that moved the ball to the Seattle 30.
After a short run by Chris Johnson, Fitzpatrick narrowly missed an end zone throw to Damian Williams. On third-and-9, the Fitzpatrick completed a pass to Justin Hunter on a crossing route, but the rookie was stuffed a yard shy of the first down.
Rather than go for it on fourth-and-short, Titans coach Mike Munchak opted to go for the points from Bironas with 5:16 left in the first quarter.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Kendall Wright, Mike Munchak, Rob Bironas, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
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Titans quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone was a marked man Thursday. In celebration of Ragone’s birthday, assistant head coach and strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson decided that Ragone should be treated to several pies in the face.
Watterson, who has managed to work in multiple pranks and jokes over his years with the Titans and Oilers, decided to add what was called a Hunger Games twist to Thursday’s surprise.
After practice concluded, Ragone was told there would be four pies and four guys chasing him but he would go unscathed if he could find the only door out of five options and make it inside before he was caught.
Ragone, 34, sprinted from the farthest practice field as receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Damian Williams gave chase. Ragone ran the width of the other two fields, a little more than 100 yards, was unable to find an open door, and eventually gave in.
“He ran pretty well. I’m surprised he didn’t get hurt trying to make it over here,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “He thought there was an open door and actually all of them were locked. He was given bad information and he thought (the door used by media) would be open but that was locked also, so he basically had no chance of winning. I don’t really think any of them were open so I don’t think he had a shot.”
Washington said he liked the new twist on the old favorite.
“(Watterson) told us this morning that he was going to try something with Ragone, so it’s a little different. I think he was really just trying to get us the extra conditioning,” Washington said. “That was definitely a long way chasing ‘Rags.’ He didn’t think it was bad. No big deal for him.”
After the assault, Ragone went back to the far field as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick did extra work with tight ends.
Munchak said Ragone wasn’t the only victim of antics this week. Watterson was in on a plot Tuesday with offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, linebackers coach Chet Parlavecchio and assistant secondary coach Steve Brown to ambush offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains when he turned 33 on Tuesday.
“They called (Loggains) down and said they were having a meeting with Jake (Locker) with how he was doing and then Jake was down in Steve’s office and we had three coaches waiting for him.”
Munchak said Matthews and Watterson have gotten him over the years as well, but his offseason birthday makes him less of a target.
“That’s been going on for years and years and years, but it’s nice to get new guys that haven’t been around it as much,” Munchak said.
Tags: Bruce Matthews, D, Damian Williams, Dave Ragone, Dowell Loggains, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Mike Munchak, Nate Washington, Steve Watterson
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The Titans received an encouraging medical report Tuesday after Jake Locker underwent a second MRI. The first MRI that was taken Sunday after Locker was injured was inconclusive, so the Titans were in wait-and-see mode until the swelling Locker encountered subsided.
“We received reassuring reports from the second MRI (Tuesday) and they confirmed that there was no major damage to Jake Locker’s hip joint – it is classified as a sprained hip,” the team announced. “The area will need time to heal and strengthen, but he won’t require surgery and he has already begun a rehab routine for both his hip and knee. We certainly would expect him to miss a few weeks, but we are encouraged by the news (Tuesday).”
Locker suffered the sprained hip and knee (the knee is thought to be less major than the hip injury) early in the third quarter during a pass attempt. After firing the ball toward Nate Washington, Locker was hit from the front left by Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. The hit knocked Locker backward and he spun about 180 degrees. As Locker’s right foot planted, he took another hit from Jets linebacker Quinton Coples that pushed him away from the direction he was going and appeared to put extra stress on Locker’s right hip and knee. Locker reached for his hip after the hit by Coples and went to the ground.
Teammates came by to share words of encouragement and prayed for Locker, who left the field on a cart as the crowd at LP Field chanted, “Jake, Jake, Jake…”
Titans coach Mike Munchak said he considered both hits “unnecessary” and the one by Coples as “totally unnecessary,” but neither drew a flag.
Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said “I think the hit (by Wilkerson) wasn’t too aggressive but it was a late hit. It wasn’t called for,” and tight end Delanie Walker said “there wasn’t a reason for the late hit he took.”
Locker will not be playing this week and began receiving treatment Monday. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will start for the Titans (3-1) this Sunday against Kansas City (4-0).
Prior to the injury, Locker recorded his first NFL game with three touchdown passes. It was his 15th career start. Munchak said the injury will halt the momentum Locker had been building, but he is confident in Locker’s ability to bounce back and in Fitzpatrick’s ability to fill in.
“You don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but everything was going right for him,” Munchak said. “He was playing well the last couple weeks doing exactly what we thought he would do, what he thought he was capable of. He was playing as good as he’s played against a top defense in that game, in that half, going into the third quarter. It’s a blow to the team, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, in sports this happens. Luckily, we have Fitz, who we think is a very good quarterback.”
Locker missed five starts last season (his first as a captain and starter) with an injury to his left shoulder. He vowed to do what he can to help the Titans while he is sidelined.
“I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers,” Locker said in a statement. “I am going to work as hard as I can to get back as soon as I can. I believe in this team and will do whatever I can to help us win in the meantime.”
Tags: Jake Locker, LP Field, Mike Munchak, Titans
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Tennessee showed Sunday at Houston that it doesn’t plan on being a pushover this season, but the Titans want to push through a disappointing result against the Texans.
The Titans answered the Texans’ opening touchdown with a touchdown and endured terrible field position for the third quarter before rallying to a 24-16 lead with less than five minutes left in regulation. The lead didn’t hold, however, as Houston tied the game and then prevailed in overtime.
“It’s tough. It’s really difficult,” quarterback Jake Locker said. “This is what’s tough about this sport. It doesn’t all go the way you’d like it in hard fought games like this. That’s why you love it so much, that’s why it’s so tough at times. That’s a hard one to swallow, but we’re going to have to forget about it and come back to work (this) week.”
Defensive end Derrick Morgan said the Titans feel like it’s a win that got away and that the team needs to do a better job of finishing next time.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said he liked the resiliency the team showed when things weren’t going well even if it didn’t yield the resolution of the Titans improving to 2-0 to start the season for the first time since 2008.
“We had the opportunity in the fourth quarter to win that football game and that is all you can ask for when you travel on the road against a team that has won the division the past two years,” Munchak said. “Now we are going to be in (the games) and we have the personnel and the group and the heart, and our mentality is that we are going to be in these games every weekend and now we have to find a way to win them when we come this close.”
Michael Griffin said the game reminded them a little bit like Tennessee’s overtime loss at home to Indianapolis in Week 8. The Titans lagged after that emotional game, losing four of their next five.
“I feel like we’re going in the right direction, but we’re still trying to get there and put some pieces of the puzzle together,” Griffin said.
Players who lived that tough stretch don’t want to repeat it, and players who were brought in as free agents and through the draft want to prevent it.
The Titans won two road games in all of 2012 and lost 38-14 last season at Houston. This season, they’ve won at Pittsburgh, pushed the Texans to the brink and are returning for three consecutive home games (San Diego, New York Jets, Kansas City).
“We’re just going to rebound and we’re going to do what we’ve got to do next week against the Chargers and let them feel our pain,” Jurrell Casey said.
Munchak said he wants the team to build off the experience it gained Sunday to acquire what’s needed to finish opponents.
“We have to realize that’s what the NFL is all about,” Munchak said. “If you put yourself in that spot, there are great players playing. We are that type of team that can crawl back and change the momentum of a game, even when things are looking bad for a while. We did that and so we have to build on that, come back and play better, and clean up the stuff we had hurt us in this game. If we do that, we’re going to win a lot of football games.”
Tags: Derrick Morgan, Jake Locker, Jurrell Casey, Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans
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The Titans’ personnel department and coaching staffs wanted to make the decisions this week as difficult as possible.
Tennessee used a huge splash in free agency to add deep talent across the roster and followed it with a draft that drew considerable praise. Opportunistic undrafted free agents signed shortly thereafter, and the team went to work in phases this spring to prepare for all the changes the Titans have in mind for 2013.
All NFL teams were allowed to open training camp with 90 players but must reduce their rosters to 75 by 3 p.m. CT Tuesday and down to 53 by 3 p.m. CT Saturday. Some teams began the process Sunday but Titans coach Mike Munchak said the team hadn’t yet made any of those decisions when he held his day-after game press conference Sunday.
Multiple factors affect decisions, including the production, experience and health of each player and across each position group, as well as versatility. The wild cards that come from outside a team’s facility and training camp are the decisions made by 31 other teams during their roster reductions.
Receiver Michael Preston knows this drill. Preston, who played collegiately at Heidelberg University, signed with the Titans as an undrafted rookie in 2011 but was released as the preseason concluded and signed to Tennessee’s practice squad two days later. He spent all of that season on the practice squad and returned for training camp in 2012. Again, Preston missed the final cut and signed with Tennessee’s practice squad. The hard work was rewarded in December when he was signed to the active roster and played the final four games of the regular season.
Preston’s camp has included several nice grabs on the practice field, downfield blocking on run plays and for teammates after catches and eight receptions for team-bests: of 144 yards, an average of 18 yards per catch and two touchdowns.
Munchak was asked about Preston’s bid for a roster spot after Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons in which Preston caught a 56-yard pass and a short touchdown in Tennessee’s 27-16 win.
“You want those kinds of tough decisions. You want guys playing well like that like he has been,” Munchak said. “He has gotten better every year since he has been here. He was working at it. He makes some decisions tough, but again, it was good to see him go out there and make plays. He plays special teams also. He’s done a nice job.”
Senior defensive assistant Gregg Williams said last week that preseason games are incredibly important to defensive coaches because, as one of the small windows for full-contact football, they allow more accurate assessments. Williams said personnel will determine the number and type of packages he and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray will implement this season.
“The most important thing we do as a coaching staff and organization is pick the right 53, and that’s not easy,” Williams said. “It’s not easy when you’re in basically underwear, shorts, and now there’s an awful lot of non-contact stuff that we do in the training camp, so we’ve got to use these games as a great evaluation tool to pick the right 53, and once we get that done, the packages will develop and we get guys in crucial situations and special situations we’ll develop packages for those guys.”
Tags: Gregg Williams, Michael Preston, Mike Munchak, NFL, nfl Preseason, Tennessee, Tennessee Titans
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A wish list of some things the Titans’ offense wants to do against the Falcons:
1) Finish possessions with points — The Titans successfully moved the ball last week at Cincinnati but reaped too few results on the scoreboard. Tennessee converted 10 of 19 third downs (53 percent) and netted 412 yards of offense but was 1-for-3 on trips to the red zone, thanks to a couple of dropped passes and three missed field goals. The Titans had the ball inside the Bengals’ 30-yard line six times but only had 12 points (two field goals and a short TD pass to show for it) on a frustrating night that was eerily reminiscent to Tennessee’s game at Jacksonville last November.
2) Seize momentum when opportunity knocks — Like the game against the Jaguars last season, the defense forced a turnover on the opponent’s first possession and got the ball inside the 30-yard line. The Titans moved the ball seven yards before settling for a field goal last year, and eight yards before a field goal attempt that was wide left last week, missing an opportunity to build on an early 3-0 lead. Those are critical types of moments that can allow teams to seize momentum early and better dictate the flow of the game. They understandably are a point of emphasis this year at home or on the road.
3) Continue to protect the football — One of the most encouraging aspects through two preseason games is Tennessee hasn’t given up the pigskin via fumble or interception. It’s likely that the Titans will need to average more than 20 points a game most weeks during the regular season, but protecting the football reduces stress on the defense. The Titans lost the ball via 16 interceptions and 12 of the 21 times they fumbled in 2012. The stronghold they’ve kept on the football so far has led to some long, run-intensive possessions and Tennessee keeping the ball for 30 minutes, 25 seconds per game this preseason. Last year, the Titans struggled in that category, holding it for a league-low 27:18.
4) Identify starting center and “swing guy” — The Titans placed a major emphasis on improving the interior of their offensive line this offseason. Tennessee found its left guard by adding free agent Andy Levitre and its right guard with first-round pick Chance Warmack. The Titans have had the benefit of great competition at center between free agent additions Rob Turner and Chris Spencer, 2012 starter Fernando Velasco and rookie Brian Schwenke. Turner started against Washington, and Velasco started at Cincinnati while Turner played guard and Spencer relieved Velasco at center. Titans coach Mike Munchak said Turner will start against Atlanta and is expected to play into the third quarter with most of Tennessee’s starters before Schwenke, who has recovered from a hamstring, makes his NFL debut. Velasco and Spencer will play at guard this game. The Titans want to identify their starting center but also the “swing guy” who will be active on game days as a replacement in case there’s an injury at center or either guard position.
Tags: Andy Levitre, Mike Munchak, nfl Preseason, Tennessee Titans, Titans
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A wish list of some things the Titans’ offense wants to do against the Bengals:
1) Establish rhythm early — Although it’s the preseason and a sell-out crowd is not expected in Cincinnati, this will be Tennessee’s first opportunity to play on the road in 2013. The best way to quiet a hostile crowd is to sustain offensive possessions early, and the Titans would like to have a solid opening series that blends the run and pass, moves the sticks and maybe results in a score.
Tennessee lost five yards on its first possession (a three-and-punt) against Washington with a short run by Chris Johnson, an incompletion on a deep pass to Kenny Britt and a sack of Jake Locker. Johnson scored on a 58-yarder on the first play of the Titans’ next possession to answer a touchdown by the Redskins, but quick strikes aren’t the most conducive to building rhythm.
Playing well early doesn’t secure victories on the road, but it doesn’t hinder them.
2) Maximize efficiency — Titans coach Mike Munchak said the first team is likely to play roughly 30 snaps or about a half, depending on the flow of the game. That should provide more opportunities for Locker, who finished 7-of-11 passing for 58 yards and a passer rating of 77.1, to take a look down the field this week. Washington opted to sag off Titans receivers to take away deep opportunities, and Locker frequently checked down to take what was available. Some were concerned about the lack of vertical attempts, but the Titans believe they missed out on a lot of hidden yardage on shorter throws last season. At least two of Locker’s incompletions probably should have been caught by receivers.
Forcing deep throws into coverage can result in incompletions or interceptions, which would hinder efficiency. Consistently connecting underneath, however, could open opportunities in defenses.
3) Protect the pocket — The Titans’ rebuilt offensive line created ample space for Johnson (60 yards on two carries) and Shonn Greene (32 yards on five), but Washington was able to record two sacks of Locker. Munchak said part of that may have stemmed from preparing less for the Redskins than the team will study opponents in the regular season.
The Titans, however, don’t want Locker getting hit too much in the preseason. He’s shown no signs that he’s dealing with any lingering effects of the injuries he suffered in 2012 to his left, non-throwing shoulder, but the Titans want to keep him upright, especially in games that don’t affect standings.
4) Evaluate deeper part of roster — An increase in playing time for starters reduces the amount of playing time for younger players, but there will still be useful opportunities for evaluations. This is particularly helpful in looking at the running back behind Johnson and Greene (Darius Reynaud, Jackie Battle and Jalen Parmele have been in competition), as well as tight end, tackle and receiver spots where younger players are vying for roster or practice squad spots. Reps are also helpful in advancing the progress of second-round pick Justin Hunter and trying to conduct the most thorough evaluation of a deep pool of receivers that coach Shawn Jefferson said is “the most talented group of receivers that I’ve been around since I’ve been in the League.”
Tags: Chris Johnson, Jackie Battle, Jake Locker, Kenny Britt, Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans, Titans
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Titans coach Mike Munchak, offensive line coach Bruce Matthews and pass rush specialist Keith Millard were able to work the schedule out to go to Canton, Ohio, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement festivities on Saturday.
The three coaches left shortly after the Titans played a mock game at LP Field that was open to season ticket holders. With players scheduled to have Sunday off, the coaches were able to balance not missing anything with the Titans with being able to participate in the special festivities.
Munchak and Matthews will add to the list of the largest group of Hall of Fame members to ever attend an enshrinement festival, and Millard will be able to celebrate with former Minnesota Vikings teammate Cris Carter, who is one of seven inductees, along with former Oilers great Curley Culp, Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells (contributor), Dave Robinson and Warren Sapp.
“It’s the 50th anniversary, and we have Curley Culp going in, who played with the Oilers back in the ’70s, a great nose tackle,” Munchak said shortly before leaving.
Culp was with the Oilers from 1974-80, a period that included two trips to the AFC Championship (after the 1978 and 1979 seasons), but slightly before Munchak and Matthews were drafted in 1982 and 1983.
“I saw him at my golf tournament. I’m glad I never had to play against him,” Munchak said. “Bruce and I thought it was important not to miss stuff here but to be part of and represent the (Titans/Oilers) organization in Canton,” Munchak said.
Tags: Bruce Matthews, Curley Culp, Keith Millard, Mike Munchak, Pro Football Hall of Fame
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