As long as Matt Hasselbeck's sore left calf is healthy enough for him to answer the bell, the veteran will be the Tennessee Titans starting quarterback.
Coach Mike Munchak made that announcement a day after the Titans' disappointing 27-13 loss that put a huge dent in their playoff hopes. Hasselbeck, who suffered the injury against the New Orleans Saints the previous Sunday, left the game with just under seven minutes remaining and Tennessee limited to six points in the game. Rookie Jake Locker finished the game and directed the Titans only touchdown drive of the game. But Munchak says Hasselbeck will start if he can go.
“We're 7-7. We're still in the playoff hunt, and he's the quarterback that got us there. I think that's what you have to go with, the guy who has experience, the guy who has been in playoff situations, the guy who has been to the Super Bowl,” Munchak said. “After what he's meant to us this year and how well he's played throughout the season for us, I think we have to give him the opportunity to finish the job.”
Munchak said Hasselbeck had some swelling in the calf after the game, but he doesn't believe the quarterback, who did limp at times during the game, suffered a setback.
“If Matt is healthy and we have no concerns for him, then yes, like I said yesterday, I wouldn't see any reason to make a change,” Munchak said Monday. “He's sore. I think he just has swelling, which is normal from playing a game on his calf. I think he'll be fine. It's a short week, so there's no way of knowing for sure how he's going to feel, but we're assuming he'll be OK.”
The Titans coach said he does not regret waiting until less than seven minutes left to put Locker in the game and was pleased with the way the first-round pick played Sunday, hitting 11 of 16 passes for 108 yards and a score.
“I guess when you lose you could have played a lot of guys differently, I guess, if you want to look at it and second guess everything we did. I don't know that it would have made a difference or not,” Munchak said. “I can't sit here and tell you that it would have. If I knew we would have won the game, I would have started him from the beginning of the game – if we knew that. But it may have been worse, it may have been better. I don't know.
“Matt wasn't injured. There was no reason to think we should pull him out at halftime or the third quarter. Like I said yesterday, a lot of things were happening. It wasn't necessarily the quarterback. When we went to the no-huddle offense, I think at one time he was about 12 for 13 or 14 in the third quarter, so I think the ball was being delivered where it needed to be.”
Hasselbeck finished his day 27 of 40 for 223 yards, but was intercepted twice, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
As for other injuries, Munchak said it will be difficult for running back Javon Ringer to return from his hand injury, even though he was to have the cast removed Monday.
Running back Chris Johnson had a minor ankle injury, which was sore on Monday. Munchak said he will be questionable for Sunday, but does not believe that Johnson will miss Saturday's game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Defensive end Jason Jones has a minor knee injury, and linebacker Will
Witherspoon finished Sunday's game despite a groin injury.
The Titans should get defensive end William Hayes (groin) back on the practice field this week, while linebacker Gerald McRath (knee/ankle) may need more time and will be limited if he is able to practice this week.