Rusty Smith isn't so much in competition with Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick as he is with back-of the-roster players all across the locker room as he tries to hang on to his spot on the Tennessee Titans' 53-man squad.
Smith is entering his fourth season, and though offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said earlier in camp that he would “get on the table” to convince the Titans to keep Rusty, the decision might not be that simple.
With so much competition all across the roster at different position groups, Smith knows there is the chance he could be nudged out by a sixth receiver, a ninth offensive lineman or an eighth linebacker, if the Titans are so inclined to a different direction when final cuts are made.
“That position is always on the table, and I think the third quarterbacks know that, because some teams don't carry three,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “Things can change dramatically from now to two-and-a-half weeks from now when we're making decisions. All of that factors in.”
Smith, entering his fourth season from Florida Atlantic, knows the situation he faces in camp this year.
“I completely understand that this is a business and a lot of times it comes down to numbers. I know as I get older, I'm going into my fourth year, but I've been a third all four years. I've just got to get better every year and to the best I can,” he said.
Munchak said the Titans like Smith and what he brings to the table. However, will that be enough come the end of August when tough choices have to be made. Munchak said the Titans think Smith could be a No. 2 quarterback, but barring an injury to Jake Locker or Ryan Fitzpatrick, that won't happen this year in Tennessee.
“We like him. We have a lot of faith in him. He's very familiar with our system, being here so long. He's a guy that we trust. But again, he's not gonna beat out Fitzpatrick. He knows he's not gonna be No. 2 unless something happens,” Munchak said. “Right now, it'll be those two and the question again is the three. That was last year's discussion and the year before's discussion, but we value what he does, what he brings to the room and what he brings to the team.”
If he had his way, Smith would prefer to stay in Tennessee, rather than have to shop for a new team, even if it meant a rise on the depth chart somewhere else.
“I don't wish to be let go. I do like it here. I have a job here. I've got my family here, my wife and my son. We've made friends and we've got a church home. We like it here. I hope I play my whole career here. I know the odds are that it's not gonna happen, but that would be a dream come true,” he said.
For now, Smith said his goal is simply to get better every day and put good work on film to convince the Titans – or someone else if it comes to that – that he is a capable NFL quarterback.
“I don't know how you would put it. I have always had the mantra of no matter what happens or who is on the team in my position, I've got to get myself better and compete with myself and make myself the best quarterback I can be,” he said. “Whatever the team decides to do as far as bringing other guys in or sending other guys out, that's business. I've got to compete with myself and get myself better and put the best product I can on the field.”
Kendall Wright joined the list of Titans who got the day off on Tuesday. Wright has been battling a sore calf, but should be fine after Wednesday's day off and is expected to play Saturday night in Cincinnati.
Fellow receiver Kenny Britt got another day off to rest his sore left knee, but according to Coach Mike Munchak, should practice Thursday and play Saturday.
Tackle David Stewart and defensive tackle Sammie Hill also expected to return Thursday and play vs. the Bengals.
Players who are iffy for Thursday's practice and Saturday's game include linebacker Greg Jones (ankle), safety Daimon Stafford (hamstring) and tight end Taylor Thompson (shoulder).
Those already out for Saturday include safety Markelle Martin (hamstring), fullback Quinn Johnson (hamstring), linebacker Colin McCarthy (hamstring), linebacker Zaviar Gooden (ankle) and receiver Marc Mariani (shoulder).
Tuesday's practice notes
*Jake Locker's best throw of the day was a go route throw to Nate Washington for a touchdown during team drills.
*Rookie cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson was catching the attention of defensive coordinator Jerry Gray in one period, as Gray kept encouraging and complimenting Wreh-Wilson after a couple of good plays. One of those came when he forced a fumble with a hit on running back Shonn Greene.
*Alterraun Verner got first-team reps at cornerback, though Gray said Monday that Tommie Campbell would start against the Bengals.
*Rob Turner was back running first-team at center today after Chris Spencer and Fernando Velasco were there the past two days.