Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak didn't rule out Jake Locker playing this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers.
But it still sounds as if the Titans starting quarterback being back under center before the bye week would still be the longest of long shots.
“He's got a lot to prove before he can come out and be our quarterback. He's got to come out there and ... practice Wednesday and Thursday, and he's got to be out there,” Munchak said.
On the surface, that would appear to be wishful thinking by the Titans that Locker could return from his sprained hip so quickly. More likely, it is a hint that Locker is progressing as well as can be expected in his recovery.
Munchak added that both Locker and Shonn Greene, who has been out since week two with a knee injury, would amp up their activity this week after being cleared to do a bit more.
“He's gonna be able to do more this week. He's doing well. Just like him and Shonn Greene, starting today, they'll be a lot more active,” Munchak said. “Now it's just a matter of seeing how they handle more activity. I think the rest part and the light stuff is over, and now he can get more into real football stuff, and now it's just a matter of how quickly he progresses without pain, the same with Shonn Greene. We'll see how Shonn is this week running and how he handles and how his knee responds to more football-like activity. The next couple of days, we'll get a feel for where those two are in terms of how soon they can help us win.”
The Titans have struggled in the two games since Locker suffered a hip injury against the New York Jets, losing to both Kansas City and Seattle and turning the ball over with four interceptions by backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick was 17 of 29 for 171 yards on Sunday.
“When you lose your quarterback, your best player, when you lose your leader, others guys have got to step up and I thought we'd run the ball better. We need to do that to help Fitzy there, and we haven't done that,” Munchak admitted.
The more likely scenario for Locker is to return after the bye week following the 49ers game. But Munchak said he would never say never regarding Locker for this week.
“I think it's just a matter of how he does and how he feels. We're not gonna limit him by any means. We're not gonna say, 'Well, if he can stand up, he'll play. He's gonna come out with the rest of these guys and see how he does running, if he has setbacks, how he does throwing, if he's moving around. Those are things he can start doing now,” Munchak said. “Now, it's just a matter of seeing how he does, and we'll just go from there, just like we would with Shonn or anyone else.
“We're not gonna rule him out. It's a process, the odds aren't great by any means, but I think as you move forward in your rehab, you just wait and see how it works out.”
The run game has been an issue for three straight games, as Chris Johnson has only 71 yards rushing in the past three games combined.
Greene should help in that regard. On Sunday on a critical third-and-1 from the Seattle 43, Johnson was out for a play, having had the wind knocked out of him. With Jackie Battle reinjuring his neck on a special teams play, the Titans were down to having Darius Reynaud carry the ball. He was stuffed for no gain.
“We think having him back will be a big plus for us. It's not gonna solve all our problems, of course, but I think it's gonna help us in a real positive way to move chains and stay on the field,” Munchak said of Greene.
The Titans are having linebacker Moise Fokou's injured knee checked out.
According to Munchak, Fokou has a sprained knee that he suffered in the second half Sunday against Seattle. Colin McCarthy, the former starter at middle linebacker, replaced Fokou in the lineup.
Munchak said that Jackie Battle's neck, which he reinjured on a special teams play Sunday, should be OK this week. Battle did not have any carries on Sunday due to the injury.