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Coach Munchak's Sept. 30 Press Conference

Posted Sep 30, 2013

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(opening statement)

Let me just start with an update on Jake (Locker). We have not released anything on Jake, so anything you’ve heard has not come from us or our organization about Jake’s status going forward. Last night after the injury, he stayed at the hospital — obviously because it was late in the evening — for testing and for comfort. He had his tests done yesterday. He’s already been to the facility today for treatment and has gone home. He’s obviously in very good spirits for the situation that he’s in. All of the tests they’ve done on him have been encouraging so far from the things we’ve seen on the MRI and the tests they’ve done as far as where he’s at. Obviously, we’re concerned for his hip and actually his knee on the same side was sore after it happened from it being twisted. I think that’s just a sprain, so it’s no big deal there with the knee. So far with the hip area, (it’s) encouraging now meaning that he still has swelling, so they don’t want to speculate on determining what that means or how long and rehab and how long it’ll take. He’ll be MRI’d again tomorrow and then we’ll have a better idea exactly what’s the time frame before he can actually play or get back on the field. We’ll have more information there just so we can start thinking about those kinds of things and all the options that come with that that we have and what’s best for the team. Unfortunately right now, that’s where it’s at, so anything you’re hearing is people guessing on what the possibilities are. Obviously, there’s only so many possibilities out there that can happen here. The good thing is, from what we’ve seen so far, it’s not like we’re standing here saying he’s done for the year or the season or anything like that from what they’ve seen so far. But, doctors are going to be cautious. A lot of times when you’re dealing with this area, (doctors) let a day or so go by before another MRI to know where we’re at. We’ll do that tomorrow and then we’ll have to make some decisions and see exactly where we’re at.

(on the initial MRI)

Well, that’s what I’m saying. Nothing I’m going to talk about that we’re concerned for him. It’s encouraging meaning there was nothing obvious there (to say), ‘OK, well, you have this wrong or that wrong, you tore your knee, you did this.’ (There was) none of that in the first picture. So, for now, we’ll look at it tomorrow and make sure it is what they think it might be and what does that mean. That’s when they’ll have to interpret it, and once we have the information, we’ll obviously announce it and move forward.

(on whether a fracture can be ruled out)

I’m not ruling anything out because, again, with the tests it could be highly unlikely, but I can’t rule anything out.

(on whether Jake Locker’s injury is obvious)

Jake Locker attended a treatment session at Saint Thomas Sports Park Monday for his injured right hip. He is scheduled to have another MRI Tuesday.

Well, I think if it was something obvious, you’d be able to tell, yes. I think when he was laying on the field, everyone thought it was something obvious, whatever that may have been. But, it’s not. Now it’s just a matter of making sure it’s nothing else that’s being missed the first time around. It’s just being thorough and not speculating and not jumping to, ‘Hey, he’s going to be back in this many weeks or let’s do this, let’s do that.’ It’s just making sure there’s nothing more than meets the eye, meets the exam. (We’ll) make sure we do everything the right way, which we’re going to do. We’ve done the same thing with players when they’ve had different types of injuries with their knee and things when it’s MRIs and taking pictures and seeing what’s up. Just like when (Jake Locker) had the shoulder, hurt his shoulder last year, it was just being cautious about what it is. Sometimes it’s hard to tell right away unless it’s something that’s really, really bad. You can’t hide those, so we’ll see.

(on whether Jake Locker was walking)

He was actually getting treatment when I saw him, so I didn’t see it or take a look to see if he was walking. I’m assuming he was, but I didn’t see him. I talked to him, but he was getting treatment.

(on whether he was on crutches)

I don’t think so.

(on knowing an official prognosis before making further decisions)

That’s why it’s going to be important for us to get as much information as we can before we make decisions on what we will do. There’s a lot of options, and now we’re weighing them before we decide upon them. Then you decide, when can Jake (Locker) be back? How many weeks is that? Does it mean an IR deal? Is it, ‘Hey, he’s going to be out X amount of weeks so we don’t want to do that?’ Is it a roster spot? There’s a lot of what-ifs and options that we have to decide upon here in the next couple of days.

(on whether the hits to Jake Locker were clean)

I think they will definitely be looked at. I think there were two hits that—especially the second—were unnecessary.

(on whether the hits to Jake Locker were legal)

Well, that’s up to the league to officially determine it. I’d say it was unnecessary, yes—either one. I thought the first one he dropped his helmet into him and loaded onto him which you’re supposed to pull back when you’re late. He didn’t. The second one was totally unnecessary.

(on whether the injury is deflating)

It was hard. I think it was hard for the whole team at that moment when it happened for the reasons you’re saying plus all the other reasons. Just the obvious reasons: he’s one of our team leaders. You don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but everything was going right for him, he was playing well the last couple weeks doing exactly what we thought he would do, what he thought he was capable of. He was playing as good as he’s played against a top defense in that game, in that half, going into the third quarter. It’s a blow to the team, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, in sports this happens. Luckily, we have Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick), who we think is a very good quarterback. We’re going to have to go forward with that, but in the meantime, we hope at some point we have Jake (Locker) back.

(on moving forward from this setback)

We hope that guys rally, that guys rise up and push harder knowing that we have been weakened a little bit when you lose someone, one of your top players. It does hurt, we’re not going to deny that, there’s no way around that. I know how I felt the rest of the game — it was hard to enjoy what was happening. It’s hard to separate the two when something like that happens to a player during a game. I mean, you have to finish the game and you want to win and do all the things we were supposed to do, but that’s something that’s hard to do, to separate that. Now we move on. Unfortunately, we weigh the situation and see where we’re at and how we move forward. Obviously, we have the pieces to do that. That’s why it’s so important in the offseason to make good decisions on that type of position, having Ryan (Fitzpatrick) in that position to come in like he did in the game yesterday. Now he’ll get the reps all week and we’ll adjust things to his comfort level with the offense and get ready to play Kansas City.

(on whether Jake Locker will play this week)

No, he won’t play this week. I’d just say he’s definitely not playing this week. We’ll know tomorrow.

(on whether Jake Locker will be back after the bye week)

I don’t want to speculate on that. Jake came back last year, and I didn’t think he’d play that second game against San Diego. Last year, I thought he’d be out for a while, but he ended up playing for a couple more weeks before he got reinjured. He’s one of those guys that I’d never want to make (a decision on) until we know exactly where he’s at physically. We just know he’s not playing this week.

(on the differences between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jake Locker)

Experience. Ryan’s (Fitzpatrick) been in a lot more game-like situations. That has its advantages for him coming to our situation. I think the only chance Ryan’s had to show what he can do was preseason, and he’s played very well in our system. Again, that’s the comfort we have; we have someone that can come in, and we won’t have to chance a lot of things. You’re going to change how you call a game, no doubt, just like you would for any quarterback because they’re all different. They have things they throw better and things they like to do better, so that’s on us as a coaching staff to find that spot, and we will. He’s been here, he’s comfortable with what we’re doing, and there’s no reason we can’t just keep moving forward.

(on the importance of Jake Locker’s mobility and how this will factor into the decision to play him)

Well, that’ll definitely be a factor for Jake (Locker). He won’t step onto the field until we feel he’s able to play the way he needs to play. It’s just a matter of how long that’s going to be.

(on whether Jake Locker is getting a second opinion)

I don’t know. If he feels that one is necessary, I guess he will at some point. I don’t know that one will be. I think he’s very comfortable with the doctors he’s dealing with in Nashville, but, again, it’s just a matter of whether something’s out of the ordinary that comes up that we’re not expecting.

(on rallying behind the backup quarterback)

You’d hope with a team with the receivers we have, the run game, how we’re built that, yes. It’s more the quarterback — that he’s comfortable with what we do. He came in and can pick up where we left off. We’re not coming in with the opposite where a young quarterback is coming in who hasn’t played. We’re the opposite. We have a veteran backing up a young guy. The thinking normally would be that the veteran would come in just like (Neil) O’Donnell came in in 1999. He came in for Steve McNair, a young quarterback, after our opening game the first year as the Titans. Steve has a great game, but his back’s bothering him, and he missed about five weeks because of back surgery. Neil comes in, and I think we went 4-1 with (him) in there — the older quarterback, the more experienced quarterback. Steve came back and we beat the Rams and went to the Super Bowl. So, I think you could look at those types of things, saying they’re similar situations with a veteran quarterback taking over for a young guy in a tough spot early in the season. But, he’s here for that reason, to weather the storm, to bring us together, and find a way to win this game Sunday.

(on Jake Locker’s knee)

He just sprained it. That’s been checked out, the ligaments are intact, there’s no issues there. They feel comfortable in saying that, so it’s just a sprain to I think his medial collateral.

(on whether Rusty Smith will be the backup quarterback)

Well, we haven’t decided yet what we’re doing at that position. If you meant last week, if we decided that Rusty (Smith) was the two, yes, we’d be comfortable. He knows our offense well, he knows what we’re doing well, so you have to take a lot of those factors into what’s the best thing now if something did happen to Ryan (Fitzpatrick), what’s the best thing for this team to win? That’s what we’ll consider, our options, before we decide what to do.

(on why Rusty Smith wouldn’t be the team’s backup quarterback)

Well, I didn’t say he’s not going to be the two. I’m just going to say we’re always going to take a look at the situation before we make the decision. Standing here, I’m not going to make the decision right now. We haven’t made any decisions right now. We’re just going to make sure that it’s the best decision when the time comes. If he’s not the guy, I’ll explain to you why at that time. Right now, I’m not saying that he’s not the guy. I’m saying we just haven’t made a decision yet on how we’re going to go forward.

(on not turning the ball over with Ryan Fitzpatrick)

I’m hoping the system we’re in is different for him. Our progression is hopefully different for him. We’ve already made that clear to him that we need him to keep the (no-turnover) record going. It’s all on him, on his shoulders to be good with the football. We can’t worry about those things. He’s got to play the game the way he plays it. We just want him to be smart with the football and his decision making and not to feel like he’s got to force something because he has a good defense and he has other people around him that he doesn’t have to go ahead and make a throw that’s necessarily not needed at that moment. We’ll see. I know we’re not going to be concerned with that—turnovers happen in a game. We just got to make sure they don’t happen where they hurt us.

(on working out free agent quarterbacks)

I’m sure we will.

(on whether playing in the game Sunday helped Ryan Fitzpatrick mentally prepare himself for Jake Locker’s absence)

I think so. I think that helped him a lot—I think just getting out there and getting back in the action of playing a little bit. They were blitzing him, they were coming after him. I mean, they were passing through. They brought five or six guys and tried to get after him. We protected well. He moved out of the pocket and made a nice throw to Nate (Washington), and Nate made a nice play on the ball for a touchdown. I think that was good (for him) to get out there. I think that’ll help him moving forward because he hasn’t played in a game—besides preseason—since last year. So, I think all that was good, and getting the reps all week will be important. Obviously, he hasn’t had a lot of reps with the first group since the start of the season. All that is going to be very necessary to get him comfortable with what we’re doing.

(on leaving Jake Locker on the active roster)

We hope that’s the option we could choose, yes. We’re hoping that his health is that we think he’ll be back in a shorter period of time and we can leave him on the active. That’d be the best news as far as going forward, but, again, we have to come up with a spot then for a quarterback we bring up. It’s going to affect someone and affect our team in one way or another.

(on whether there is concern about re-focusing after Jake Locker’s injury)

I don’t think so. I think when it initially happens there is during the game, in that situation, especially when someone gets taken off the way he was. I think now, going forward, no. I’m hoping it’s more of that rally where we need to step up and play better. I would think it’d be more of that way. I’d say it’d be more of we’ll be back there at home, at LP (Field), and finding a way to win against a good football team and all those things will factor in. Jake’s (Locker) not the only guy that’s been hurt this year. We’ve lost some other guys that are watching. It’s hard. It’s a tough sport, and the team that can stay healthy is usually the last team standing at the end. Hopefully, we’ll have him back at some point.

(on other injuries from Sunday’s game)

Just probably like we talked about yesterday Blidi (Wreh-Wilson). He’ll be out again with the hamstring. It doesn’t look bad, but it’s one of those things that it’ll probably be until the end of the week before we know where he’s at. Kenny (Britt) should be better this week we assume after having the week. (Patrick) Bailey also should be in better shape to help us this next week. It was good to get (Zaviar) Gooden out there. He did a nice job playing special teams. It’s the first time he’s been in any kind of contact in a Titan uniform. I thought that was good for him. (Shonn) Greene and (Sammie) Hill, the goal with them will be to get them in individual drills this week.

(on whether he talked to the league about the hits on Jake Locker)

Yup. I talk to them all the time. I’ve talked to them all the time about plays that are questionable calls, usually on Monday morning and throughout the week Monday, Tuesday about calls, rulings, just to make sure we’re along the same page so I can educate players on certain things if it’s PIs (pass interferences) or if it’s whatever it may be. We’ve had a lot of crazy plays this year, safeties, illegal touches, and all that stuff. So, yeah, I’ve already talked to them about some of those plays that they’re looking at.

(on the tone of conversations with the league)

It’s emotional anytime you have a player get hurt on plays you think could have been avoidable. Football is football. Guys are going to get hurt in football; we get that. But, you’re hoping to avoid things that maybe shouldn’t happen. So, that’s emotional because we lost someone we feel is a big part of this team, this offense. That makes it hard.

(on how Jake Locker’s injury happened)

It’s hard to tell. They’re looking at all that now to figure that out. The trainers always do a freeze-frame and look at each step to see where the stress level is. He obviously got in an awkward position, and I think he never could get his foot. His foot got planted, and he couldn’t pull it out when he got hit by the second hit. This is just me seeing it that he couldn’t get his foot pulled out. When he did, the hit kind of almost got whiplash on his hip.

(on Chris Johnson’s carries against the Jets)

I just think when you play against a team like the Jets that are big and physical, there’s not going to be big run lanes. Generally, a heavier back is going to have more of those three, four runs instead of two and one because of pure size because there’s not going to be big lanes. You have to create your own lanes. Up front, we weren’t creating our own lanes like we did last week that were there for the backs. I think that’s where different running styles fit better against certain teams. I thought he started off with an eight-yard run that probably could’ve been a touchdown if the receiver didn’t miss his block. He comes back with a seven-yard run and we hammer twice and they play a run and we score on a play action. It just kind of dried up. I thought we were heading in the right direction. Throughout the game there were spots we needed to run, but we didn’t run well. We knew we had to throw it—that’s why we got the short fields. Heck, he (Jake Locker) threw three touchdown passes in the first half. So, we were doing exactly what we thought would happen. Ideally, we thought somewhere in the fourth quarter we’d get our 100 yards rushing. We broke one finally at the end for 12 or 13 (yards), Jackie (Battle) did. We had too many opportunities, small windows for runs we didn’t get because either it wasn’t blocked well—guys took turns not quite blocking well. Their defense was physical and there wasn’t a lot of lanes anyway so you had to maneuver. It was a combination of it all, but it needs to be better than it was.

(on how information on Jake Locker’s injury leaked)

Well, all I’m telling you is what I know. It doesn’t matter who the agent is or what he’s putting out there; he doesn’t know anything anymore than we know. People can obviously speculate. It’s not hard to speculate what the options are. I could throw out four to eight weeks and go, ‘I was right. It took him six weeks.’ We haven’t put out anything. There’s no facts to go out there and put something out yet because he’ll have another MRI tomorrow. Obviously, all the information’s not there to lay out what you think may happen. People guess and project what they think we’re going to do or what might happen, but it’s not factual.

(on addressing rumors about Jake Locker’s prognosis)

He’s had tests. He’s going to have more tomorrow, but I’m saying we have not said, ‘OK, this is the situation. You’re out this many weeks.’ We haven’t had those conversations with Jake (Locker), so I don’t know how his agent or anyone’s agent or whoever the agent or person is...people put out stuff all the time and who knows where it comes from.

(on Ropati Pitoitua developing as a pass rusher)

He gets so much push in certain games. He’s got his hands up to block balls. He has closed the pocket quite a bit. Actually, on one of his sacks (Jurrell) Casey beat the guard real fast and forced him out to Ropati’s (Pitoitua) area, and Ropati got him on the ground. On the one we thought was a safety, he beat the guy on a quick set. He’s a complete player and sometimes guys get overlooked and that’s a good thing because offensive lines will say, ‘Oh, this guy’s not really a pass rusher’ then he beats you and gets pressure. He’s been a very good addition. He’s done exactly what we hoped he’d do, brought that physical, tough nature to our D-line with the guys we have. He’s been good.

(on the non-safety call)

They ruled it forward progress. I went up and talked to the officials. Again, when you talk to them, they have a rule about what their feeling on that was. You obviously can’t challenge that when they say it’s forward progress. You wish they’d call it a safety and look at it and review and see if it was a safety or not. They were saying originally, the one official, when he was contacted, the ball was outside the end zone even though the ball got pulled in the end zone. So, that’s why they placed it there. I’ll get the ruling on that this week.

(on  protecting the ball on offense and Alterraun Verner’s impressive play thus far)

I wish we could take credit for it. I’m sure most teams do the same thing; we made such a big deal out of it from the first time we got together about ball security. I think the coaches have done a great job in practice reinforcing it every day, every practice, running back from the huddle. All the little things you heard me yell at the first day of practice, we made sure they stayed on top of the receivers, the running backs. The quarterback is usually the biggest culprit. I mean, Jake (Locker) fumbled last week, but we recovered it. I think that’s the only fumble we’ve had on the ground in four weeks, the one Jake fumbled, but Chance (Warmack) fell on it. Quarterbacks, like you said yesterday, have a tendency when they’re running, the ball doesn’t get tucked. You saw that when Zach Brown knocked theirs out yesterday. I think it’s just discipline by the team. It’s important to them. We work on it every day in practice. We have the defensive guys trying to strip us every single day in practice, so they’re also trying to strip the ball from the running backs, from the receivers. Even when they’re coming back from the huddle, or coming back after the play and handing the ball to (Paul Noska) they have to keep it high and tight the whole time and protect it when guys are trying to pop it out. I think all that’s resonated with them about how important it is. I think it’s become such a habit now, a good habit. Hopefully, it continues. We know what happened last year with Chicago. That kind of woke us up last year when that happened to us. We didn’t think that could happen to us to fumble as many times as we did in one game. From that point on, it’s been a mindset. On defense, it’s been the opposite.  You’re working on it all the time. Last year, we didn’t get as many plays. Sometimes things happen and you’re in the right spot and good things happen. Vern (Alterraun Verner) is a smart player. He jumps on certain routes, he plays some tendencies. Obviously, he was in great coverage yesterday. The ball was right there and he made some plays. On the fumble obviously, he was in the right place at the right time when Zach (Brown) knocked the ball out. He’s having a great year. He’s off to a great start. I hope he continues. I hope it’s something that rubs off on everybody else.

(on the misperception Alterraun Verner doesn’t play as well in man coverage)

Maybe he got tagged unjustly. He went into some man last year. I think guys look at his size and say, ‘He can’t do this.’ Sometimes people do that in a lot of areas, a lot of professions. They just look at his size and his strength and think, ‘Well, he’s not going to be able to do this versus this guy and that guy.’ There’s certain guys, just like offensive line, that aren’t going to be a good match for him and you have to help him in different ways. You can’t put him in a situation where he may have a longer day. I think Jerry’s (Gray) doing a good job with that, with changing things up, with helping those guys when they need it, having inside help, outside help. We’ve been doing some of that, so it’s taken some of the pressure off. The pass rush has been good. When you’re rushing the passer well, you don’t have to cover as long and vice versa. So, if you’re covering well, then all of a sudden the sacks come and all of a sudden you have five sacks in a game. Those things go hand-in-hand. He’s off to a special year, and I hope he continues.

(on whether Tommie Campbell will start at corner)

I don’t know that Jerry (Gray) is saying he’ll start any particular game. I think it is the way it’s been. Vern’s (Alterraun Verner) starting every game. I don’t think we’ve had any decisions about changing it, that he’s not going to be starting every weekend unless he’s injured or we felt there was a horrible matchup problem. I couldn’t imagine it happening.

(on how the team envisioned Ryan Fitzpatrick’s role when they signed him)

Well, more for mentoring him. One obviously comes with the other. You want a guy that felt comfortable in the role that we’d have him be in, which is mentoring Jake (Locker) now that Jake’s a starter here hopefully for the next 10 years. He had to be willing to be in that role. He can compete and still continue to get better and better, but the fact was that Jake Locker was going to be our starting quarterback. Also, for us, he’s a guy that we knew could win football games. We feel confident that if he had to go in for a game or two there wouldn’t be some huge drop off. He’s a guy that can step right in and have success. We have the right pieces of the puzzle around him. We felt he had talent to win football games, which is important. He had to be comfortable in his role. I think number one is we had to feel he could win games for us. If we didn’t think he could win games for us, then we wouldn’t have brought him in.

(on whether the Titans are better off with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the backup)

I don’t think it was laid out that way. I think it was more of a business issue with Matt (Hasselbeck). It wasn’t, ‘Do we want this guy or this guy?’ It wasn’t that type of decision. When we made the decision, it was more of someone’s contract, the business part got involved. When that wasn’t going to work out, what’s the next best option? (Ryan Fitzpatrick) is the next best option. I’m saying we did what was best for the team at that time.

(on fears that Jake Locker is injury prone)

No, you can’t worry about that. Obviously, he hurt his shoulder and now his hip in two years. Hopefully, that’s just bad luck of the position and we look back 10 years from now and say he hasn’t been hurt since 2013. We’ll see.

(on the goal for Kenny Britt this week)

Just to continue on and make sure he can practice number one, that he can do everything at practice. Like I said, Damian Williams is the same way. Damian didn’t practice two weeks ago for the Houston game, and we didn’t play him. I think Kenny’s (Britt) got to show he’s healthy. That’s the biggest thing especially with a new quarterback playing. These guys have to get comfortable and have confidence in each other. The general way we’re getting that is Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. If Kenny’s healthy and practicing all three days, he’d be right back in the mix. We just feel we’ve got some good football players at the receiver position—six of them—that can help us win football games. Each week we’ll have to figure out what’s the best to have up.

(on when he plans to share additional news regarding Jake Locker’s injury)

I would share it probably as soon as we have some news to give so you’re not getting false information from somewhere else.

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