Quarterback Jake Locker will return to the Tennessee Titans starting lineup Sunday against the Miami Dolphins barring any setbacks with his injured left shoulder during the week.
Locker practiced with the offense on Wednesday after being cleared for contact Tuesday and split reps with Matt Hasselbeck. He has been out since week four when he dislocated the shoulder for the second time this season and fractured a bone.
“I think he’s ready to go. It’s just a matter of now getting through practice and seeing how it goes for him,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “Physically I think he’s as healthy as he’s going to be, I think, until he starts playing. He had a good day of practice today, and we’ll see how it goes the next couple of days.”
Locker, who has a scrambling style, will continue to wear a protective brace the shoulder but said he lobbied Munchak to let him “be himself” if and when he came back.
“I told Munch, ‘If you’re going to consider letting me play at some point I need you to consider it being myself’ so that I don’t have to think about ‘don’t do this’ or ‘don’t do that,’” If I’m going to be able to play, I’m going to go out and play the way I know how and the way I always have played. If something happens, it happens at that point. You can’t play with that in the back of your mind.”
Even though Locker has been cleared for contact in practice and is on track to play, the toughest part is simulating contact on the shoulder, something that doesn't happen very often in practice, especially to a quarterback wearing a non-contact red jersey.
“That’s the one thing for all of these guys, you can’t simulate, especially at that position, what it’s going to be like to play on a Sunday,” Munchak said. “He’s been in traffic all of last week and obviously again today. That part has been fine. We’re doing a lot of different drills with him, doing different things with him to see how the soreness does, how he holds up. Like I said, we’ll see how he progresses the next couple of days.”
The Titans have let Locker run the scout team the past few weeks in practice to ease him back into playing. It is something Locker says has helped.
“I think Munch has done a great job of allowing me to kind of work back in over the last couple weeks, to get familiar doing some scout team stuff. So it wasn’t my first time taking live team reps today,” Locker said.
The Titans are 3-6 and in need of some sort of spark the rest of the season, after a 51-20 thrashing from the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Munchak is hopeful Locker can be that spark.
“When you get someone new in there, especially a quarterback, there are things that are different, so I think it does bring energy. You see it in practice, it’s nice,” he said. “I think it’s just good when everyone sees their guys getting back. A guy gets back from being injured, whether on offense, defense or special teams, it’s just good to see the guy back out there. Then you’re rallying around him hoping that he can play, and play well.”
The Titans signed defensive end Jarius Wynn on Wednesday to replace Leroy Harris on the active roster. Harris is out for the year with a partially torn ACL.
Wynn previously played for the Green Bay Packers, but was let go in final cuts. On Tuesday the Titans waived defensive end Pannel Egboh and signed guard Kyle DeVan for the second time in a week.
Also, Tennessee added former Tennessee State linebacker Rico Council to the practice squad.
Linebacker Colin McCarthy was held out of practice to rest his ankle and might not practice until Friday, according to Munchak.
Also, linebacker Xavier Adibi (knee) and safety Al Afalava (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday.
Others on the injury report practiced fully. Those included receivers Kenny Britt (knee) and Kendall Wright (elbow), linebacker Will Witherspoon (hamstring), cornerback Alterraun Verner (thigh) and tackle Byron Stingily (back).
Linebacker Patrick Bailey (ribs) and cornerback Tommie Campbell (ankle) were limited.