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Camp Notebook: Hasselbeck Will Start Against Former Team

Posted Aug 9, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Matt Hasselbeck will start at quarterback for the Titans Saturday in their preseason opener at Seattle, coach Mike Munchak said Thursday.

Hasselbeck played for the Seahawks for 10 seasons before signing a three-year contract with Tennessee in 2011. He started all 16 games last season for the Titans, throwing for 3,571 yards and leading the team to a 9-7 mark.

Hasselbeck is Seattle’s franchise leader in passing yards (29,434), attempts (4,250) and completions (2,559) and is expected to receive a warm welcome from Seahawks fans.

The 14-year NFL veteran said Wednesday that the best way to show his appreciation to Seattle fans for their support when he was a Seahawk is to play well. It’s also in his best interest to do so because he and second-year pro Jake Locker are competing for the starting job this season. Hasselbeck and Locker already had a strong relationship from Locker’s collegiate career at the University of Washington and have handled the competition with mutual respect and professionalism.

“We’re going to start Matt, start him out with the first group and play him that 12 to 15 play range,” Munchak said. “Just kind of see how the game goes, hopefully two successful drives, get him at least that much work, then bring Jake in and probably finish the half with Jake, depending on plays. If it gets to be a lot of plays, we might pull him sooner, but we’d like to see him finish the half. Then we’ll go with Rusty (Smith) the third quarter.”

Munchak, Hasselbeck and Locker have downplayed the significance of who’s starting Saturday and said the competition is expected to continue after the game.

“Like I said yesterday, it wasn’t a big decision,” Munchak said. “I think Matt deserves the start. If it means anything, it’s his hometown and where he’s played. He was a starter last year, so I think he should be the first one out of the box with the ball in his hand. Like I said, they’re both going to play the same, just like other positions, but that was kind of an easy thought going in that we’d let Matt start and go with Jake second.”

The Titans rotated which quarterback took snaps with first-team and second-team offensive units (and rotated players on offensive line and at receiver positions) throughout camp and voluntary organized team activities during the spring.

Locker logged significant minutes when injuries knocked Hasselbeck from three games last season and showed potential that the Titans expect for many seasons from the No. 8 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Locker said he prepared for each game last season as if he were the starter.

“I want to build on the fact of being prepared like I was for the games we went into and just show comfort and confidence within the offense: control the huddle, control the line of scrimmage and being able to execute the plays that are called,” Locker said.

Munchak said Titans coaches will evaluate how Locker manages the offense and handles game-like situations. The Titans are not doing the amount of preparation work that they do for opponents in the regular season, and they are not expecting the Seahawks to come at them with complex challenges.

“Hopefully we’re running well and doing some things that are working, we can keep some drives going and get a six or seven play drive,” Munchak said. “I don’t expect it to be very complicated as far as having to make a lot of adjustments. You never know how someone is going to play in preseason, so we’ll wait and see on that. I think just having success moving the ball for him and for the whole team.

Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said he’s pleased with the way the quarterbacks have performed and the progress of players in their second year of the offensive scheme.

“We’re in a situation where I think we can win with either quarterback,” Palmer said. “We have this big playbook, and then as coaches, we have to determine what those guys can do. What is going to give whoever is playing quarterback the best opportunity? What plays can Kendall (Wright) make? What plays can Nate (Washington) make? What plays can the tight ends make? We have to give (the quarterbacks) a chance to do what they do best, and that’s what coaching is all about.”

THE NEXT FIRST ROUNDER: Saturday will mark the debut of Titans rookie receiver Kendall Wright in game action. The Titans tabbed Wright with the 20th overall selection of the NFL Draft, and coaches and teammates have been pleased with Wright’s approach and abilities.

Preseason games present a fine line for coaches to decide how much they want to play each player to conduct evaluations. The decision is slightly magnified when it pertains to rookies who are getting their first taste of the NFL.  

“He’ll probably play close to a half, I imagine, depending on if it’s a normal half, like 30 snaps or something,” Munchak said. “If he’s getting a lot of plays, then we may pull him out sooner. But I’m sure we’ll keep him in the game roughly around that amount of time and just be smart. If for some reason he isn’t fit to play the half, then we’ll obviously pull him out sooner. He just needs to get in football shape and keep playing, get used to the offense and go out there and make some plays.”

DEFENSE READY TO TACKLE: Safety Michael Griffin said Monday’s joint practice with the Atlanta Falcons was productive even though the ground rules set by the teams prohibited tackling and limited contact, which tips scales toward offenses.

“It’s hard to get an actual assessment without tackling, but we just had a good organized practice,” Griffin said. “After watching the tape, one-on-ones was kind of rough, but after watching the team periods and seeing the defensive line get pressure on the quarterback and opportunities to knock the ball out of the way, I think we did pretty well.”

Although the first team defense is going to be limited in the number of snaps it plays, Griffin said he expects the first preseason game to provide a snapshot of the defense.

“It’s the first opportunity for live tackling, an opportunity to see what this team’s about,” Griffin said. “It’s kind of hard to assess that during practice and stuff, especially against your own teammates when you’re trying to play it safe, but finally a chance to go live, and see the pieces of the puzzle to try and help this team get to where we’re trying to get.”

PROS BOWL: The Titans went bowling Wednesday night, incorporating the trip into a team-building outing for the second straight year of training camp. Munchak bowled during his youth and when he was in college and likes the social aspects of the sport. He and many past and present players participated in Mike Munchak’s Strikes to Stop Diabetes event in June that raised nearly $70,000 for the American Diabetes Association, but Wednesday’s trip was intended to break the grind of training camp. 

Griffin has his own bowling ball, and had the best score of any celebrity during the June event, but said he had an off-night Wednesday.

“I didn’t defend the title, but my team defended the title,” Griffin said. “The secondary wins again. They haven’t told us officially, but me, Ryan Mouton, Coty Sensabaugh, Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner, I’m pretty sure we defended our title. I didn’t defend my title, but everyone brought their A-game but me. They picked up my slack.”

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