Veteran Hasselbeck to start at QB vs Colts, Titans not sure when Locker returns to lineup
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Titans do not have a quarterback controversy just yet, and coach Mike Munchak is doing his best to keep the situation under control by making it clear the starting job is Jake Locker's when healthy.
When that will be still remains to be seen.
For now, Matt Hasselbeck should make his fourth straight start Sunday against Indianapolis, and the veteran's play in leading Tennessee to fourth-quarter comebacks each of the past two games makes it easier for Locker to take his time healing up his shoulder.
Locker injured his left, non-throwing shoulder Sept. 30 for the second time in four games. He just started throwing in practice last week on a limited basis, and Munchak said they would discuss the quarterback's status later Monday. The coach said again that Locker will start when he's ready with the only holdback how quickly the quarterback can move through each stage of healing.
"He could progress very fast," Munchak said of Locker.
"That's all the information we really have other than that it's just a lot of speculation of where he's at and timing and guessing what week he'll be (back). We just don't know that. When he's ready to play, like I said, he'll be back playing. We just don't know when that is right now."
Hasselbeck threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington on fourth down with 1:03 left in rallying the Titans (3-4) to a 35-34 win at Buffalo. He also drove the Titans to 10 fourth-quarter points in beating Pittsburgh on Oct. 11. Locker praised the 14-year veteran's performance as being "awesome."
"I'm happy that we're winning games, and I don't think you can look at it any other way," Locker said. "It's my job to get myself healthy and myself back on the field as soon as I can."
Locker said he had another round of tests on his shoulder Monday and hadn't heard the results yet. What doctors are looking for on the MRI exams is a more healing around the shoulder where the bone dislocated twice.
"Once that happens, then the discussion about being able to come back becomes a little more serious," Locker said.
The Titans have a chance to claw their way back to .500 if they can beat Andrew Luck and the Colts (3-3), their AFC South rivals. That would revive playoff hopes after a dreadful 1-4 start, especially in the AFC where all but two teams have at least three losses.
After Indianapolis, the Titans host Chicago and visit Miami before their bye week on Nov. 18. Keeping Hasselbeck as the starter with Locker continuing to heal up could position Locker for a return Nov. 25 against Jacksonville and the final six games this season.
Munchak said everything gets factored in when making a decision on when a player returns from injury. He also said too much football remains to "put all your eggs in one basket." But the coach refused to speculate on how long Locker will remain out, noting not many people though the Titans could rally from 1-4 to have the chance to be 4-4.
"If Jake's ready to play this week, Jake will start," Munchak said. "If Jake's ready next week, Jake will start and from there we'll figure it out."
Another factor could be the health of left tackle Michael Roos, who had an appendectomy Monday morning. Roos has started all 119 games since being drafted in the second round out of Eastern Washington, and Mike Otto would start if Roos isn't able to play against the Colts.
The Titans have allowed 13 sacks, and Locker dislocated his shoulder for the second time when sacked hard by the Texans.
"He's a quick healer," Munchak said of Roos. "He can tolerate high pain levels and still pain, which he's done since he's been here. We'll have to wait and see."
The Titans aren't worried about a quarterback change affecting the timing of the offense, not after working with both Locker and Hasselbeck throughout training camp. Receiver Kenny Britt said Locker should make sure he's feeling better when he's back, especially after Hasselbeck showed he can still throw the ball.
"We're winning, and that's what we want to do is keep winning," Britt said. "We can definitely win when Jake's in the game too. We definitely have two great quarterbacks right now."
Notes: The Titans will be looking at linebackers after Munchak announced Zac Diles broke his right leg in Buffalo. Diles likely will be placed on injured reserve. Linebacker Will Witherspoon also hurt a hamstring that will make him questionable against Indianapolis, and reserve Patrick Bailey broke a rib. ... Munchak said S Jordan Babineaux hurt a wrist but should be OK.
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