Jake Locker has had his share of struggles this season, especially in the second half of the season for he Tennessee Titans.
Since the bye week, Locker has just four touchdown passes and nine interceptions to show for five games of work.
But Locker has been through this sort of thing before, trying to work through his own struggles while the team around his struggles as well. He suffered a similar fate at the University of Washington, being part of a winless team one season, but sticking it out and leading the Huskies to a bowl victory in his senior season.
“I'm very fortunate to have gone through something very similar to then. It wasn't easy then and it isn't easy now, but I think you learn a lot about yourself and a lot about your teammates, and it makes you stronger,” Locker said. “I think people's true character is tested when your back is against the wall and you've got people criticizing you and doubting what you guys are doing. The best part about that is it gives you something to rally around. As bad as it may seem, it can be really good for a locker room, really good for a young group of guys that that's all you have to count on is the guys in that locker room. Sometimes you don't see that right away, but that's something you can build and that's something that can become real useful down the road.”
The Titans and Locker have to hope that that is the payoff sometime in 2013 or beyond. Right now, question marks are all there is surrounding the team and its quarterback.
“I think we've really fought. It hasn't always been clean. There are some things we can clean up,” Locker said. “Guys are going out and competing really hard each week. We're a few mental mistakes on a lot of plays from being really, really successful, and it's frustrating because you know how close you are, but at the same time, it's things that you can't continue to do, and that's our goal right now to fix it.”
Coach Mike Munchak, who has bore the brunt of much of the criticism of the Titans, also hopes there are better days ahead for the team and for his quarterback – beginning Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the season finale.
“I think that’s something that as you can see just talking to him, he handles things well. He knows what he has to do. He’s not hiding anything. He knows he has to play better, he knows he will,” Munchak said. “He knows it’s part of the learning process, unfortunately. He’s getting a taste of a team not having success early on in his career. I think that will encourage him this weekend. Like I said, we’re all focused on Sunday and finishing this game strong, and then we’ll go back and have the whole off-season to figure out how to go forward and play much better next year.”
The Titans could be without linebacker Colin McCarthy again on Sunday as he still has not cleaed up from a concussion suffered against Jacksonville a month ago.
McCarthy has missed eight of the Titans' 15 games this year due to injuries – first with a high ankle sprain and then with the concussion.
Tight end Craig Stevens is also questionable with a concussion, his second of the year.
Other Titans who did not practice on Wednesday included running back Chris Johnson (ankle), running back Jamie Harper (ankle), linebacker Will Witherspoon (ribs), receiver Damian Williams (foot). Johnson and Harper should practice later in the week and be ready for Sunday.
Receiver Kendall Wright should play this week as he makes his way back from a rib injury.