NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan is in a walking boot protecting his sprained left ankle. Right tackle Michael Oher wears one for a painful toe. Center Brian Schwenke injured his knee and now is on injured reserve, along with starter Michael Roos.
With such a banged up offensive line, it's not a good time to be visiting J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans.
Zach Mettenberger already has been sacked 12 times in four starts for Tennessee, and Watt got to the rookie quarterback twice the last time these teams met a month ago. Mettenberger may be protected by up to three new linemen Sunday in Houston with Byron Stingily possible at left tackle, veteran Chris Spencer at center and Will Svitek at right tackle.
"That's something I can't worry about," Mettenberger said Wednesday. "I've got to continue to work on getting the ball out of my hand quicker, and if I can do that this week it'll make their job easier."
Lewan, Tennessee's first-round draft pick, is in the lineup because the Titans lost the 10-year veteran Roos to a knee injury in early October. The Titans brought back lineman Eric Olsen, someone they cut at the end of training camp to bolster their numbers.
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said protecting the quarterback obviously is a concern against a good defense featuring Watt and he didn't know for sure who will line up on Sunday.
"We'll work through the week, see how it progresses," Whisenhunt said. "Somebody will be out there."
Lewan and Schwenke were hurt in last week's loss at Philadelphia, so Oher wearing a walking boot in the locker room and being on the injury report was a surprise. Whisenhunt said the right tackle has been dealing with an injured toe off and on this season, and Oher said he couldn't remember a specific moment where he first injured his toe.
But the six-year veteran prides himself on playing through injuries. He has started 91 straight straight games, and Oher said he tore his upper bicep in a preseason game with New Orleans.
"I pride myself on being there, helping the team and things like that," Oher said. "You want to be out there, have fun and help your teammates and hopefully get the win. So you want to be there."
With the injuries to Lewan and Schwenke, the Titans certainly could use Oher's experience if he can play in Houston (5-6).
"If I'm in there or not, I'm confident the job will get done," Oher said.
Stingily is a big tackle at 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds. He is in his fourth season with the Titans and has played in 16 games with five starts, including one this season at tight end when injuries hit that position earlier this year. He replaced Lewan last week against Philadelphia. Stingily started at right tackle against Houston last season, so this wouldn't be his first up-close look at Watt.
"A real good player," Stingily said of Watt. "Just got to be patient and take my time and just don't get overwhelmed and just be technique-sound. And I should be all right."
Nobody in the NFL likes to hear about players being injured, and Watt said the injuries on the offensive line obviously will be difficult for Tennessee (2-9).
"That's tough to hear, but obviously next man up," Watt said. "It's just like any situation, the same thing here, anywhere. The next guy has to step up. Everybody's made it to the National Football League for a reason, so they have some good players backing them up, and it's just a chance for us to go out there and challenge and compete.
Notes: S Michael Griffin (left shoulder) and LB Kam Wimbley (left hamstring) also did not practice along with Lewan and Oher. RB Leon Washington (hamstring) was limited along with RB Dexter McCluster (concussion).
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