Jake Locker (Randy Sartin/US Presswire)
The Titans will start Matt Hasselbeck Sunday against the Vikings, realizing Jake Locker’s injury is in no position to shoulder the burden.
Jake Locker’s left shoulder is sore enough that the Tennessee Titans don’t even want him dressing Sunday when they visit Minnesota, so veteran Matt Hasselbeck will start at quarterback.
Whether Locker misses more than one game depends on how quickly his non-throwing shoulder heals.
“We’ll take it day by day and see how he responds with soreness, getting the strength back and, like I said the last time, when he’s ready to play, he’ll be playing,” coach Mike Munchak said Wednesday after announcing the change at starter. “Right now all we know is he won’t play this weekend.”
Locker dislocated his non-throwing shoulder for the second time in four games when sacked in last week’s 38-14 loss at Houston. Munchak said Wednesday that Locker’s shoulder has not improved over the past day and remains just as sore. But Munchak said they assume Locker will heal rather quickly and they’ll put him back in the starting lineup when he is ready.
“We’re always going to do what’s best for the player, best for the quarterback,” Munchak said. “He’s going to be here a long time, so quarterbacking for a long, long time with this organization, so obviously we’re going to do the right thing by him.”
The Titans (1-3) host Pittsburgh on Oct. 11, so they face a quick turnaround.
Locker first hurt his shoulder early in the fourth quarter of the season opener against New England. He was hurt in the first quarter against Houston when Glover Quinn sacked him, with the shoulder popping out when the quarterback hit the turf. Locker said this injury feels different and he’s not as comfortable as he was a month ago.
“It’s just as fast as my body can respond to it,” Locker said. “I’ll do my best to get back there as soon as I can and as coach Munch (said), we’ll just take it week to week.”
The eighth pick overall in 2011, Locker was given the starting job in late August. He is 67 of 106 for 781 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions and a 90.2 passer rating.
This is why the Titans kept Hasselbeck around after deciding to go with Locker. Hasselbeck has thrown for 236 yards with two TDs and two interceptions coming off the bench, but he helped Tennessee go 9-7 last season when he threw for 3,571 yards.
“It’s going to be a tough environment to play in, as we all know,” Munchak said of Minnesota. “But I’m glad we have a quarterback like we’ve been saying all along, like Matt, that we feel we can obviously win with and have won with. He knows how big this game is to win. We’re lucky we have a quarterback that’s very capable of doing that for us.”
Hasselbeck said he was a bit cautious when he replaced Locker in Houston, knowing that Rusty Smith was inactive and receiver Damian Williams was the emergency quarterback if something happened to him. Smith will be active as the backup against the Vikings (3-1).
“It’s unfortunate anytime anybody gets hurt,” Hasselbeck said. “I certainly feel bad for Jake and his injury. I’ve been there. I’ve had that injury. Nothing’s fun. Sleeping’s not fun. Nothing’s fun. I feel badly for him.
“At the same time … when somebody gets hurt, somebody needs to step up, and your teammates, the rest of the team’s counting on you to do your job.”
The Vikings are pretty familiar with Hasselbeck from his years in the NFC with Seattle. He has started four games against Minnesota, going 1-3 as a starter. He’s been sacked nine times by the Vikings while throwing for as many touchdowns as interceptions (five).
“Hasselbeck is a huge threat,” Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. “I played against him back when he was in Seattle, and let’s put it this way: I don’t think there’s a quarterback that gets rid of the ball as fast as him, maybe Peyton (Manning), maybe he’s second to Peyton, so it is a tough thing to prepare.”
The Titans still are waiting to see if Hasselbeck will have receiver Kenny Britt available as a target. Britt sprained his left ankle Sept. 23 and did not practice Wednesday, though he did run on the side.
“There’s no doubt he’s going to have to improve the next couple of days so he can help us on Sunday,” Munchak said. “At least he’s heading in the right direction.”
Notes: Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy practiced with the team for the first time since spraining his right ankle in the opener, though he was limited. Munchak said if the defensive captain has no setbacks they expect him to play “quite a bit” Sunday. … TE Jared Cook (left shoulder) was limited. DE Scott Solomon (hamstring) did not practice along with LB Patrick Bailey (hand). RG Leroy Harris was given the day off for rest.