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Hasselbeck's Experience at Minnesota Runs Deep

Posted Oct 3, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Matt Hasselbeck’s insertion to the Titans’ starting lineup while Jake Locker recovers from a separated shoulder will inject experience that runs almost as deep as the collective history between the Titans and Vikings franchises.

Hasselbeck’s time in what was formerly called the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome dates to 1984 when he was in fourth grade and his father Don played for Minnesota that season. After his dad’s games, Hasselbeck would play on the playing surface, throwing passes, diving for catches and getting turf burns.

Fifteen years later, Hasselbeck recorded his first touchdown pass, a nine-yarder on a fake field goal attempt when he was a backup for Green Bay.

“I’ve played there a bunch,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s obviously a good atmosphere and a place with a lot of history. I threw my first touchdown pass there on a fake field goal and failed miserably on the end zone celebration.”

The building is now known as Mall of America Field but is still regarded as a difficult place to play.

Hasselbeck has played at Minnesota five times and has nine career games and four starts as a member of Green Bay and Seattle. Sunday’s game will be just the 12th ever between the Titans/Oilers franchise and the Vikings.

The Titans announced Wednesday that Hasselbeck would start in place of Locker, who last Sunday re-aggravated a shoulder injury he suffered in the season opener.

Hasselbeck relieved Locker early in the game and was 17-of-25 passing for 193 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Hasselbeck started all 16 games for the Titans in 2011, and the team finished 9-7. He frequently talked about the importance of practice last season and continued that Wednesday after taking more reps than he had since Locker was named the starter.

Rusty Smith took the remainder of the snaps and will be No. 2 on the depth chart, and Locker will be inactive, Titans coach Mike Munchak said Wednesday.

“I think today’s practice is big,” Hasselbeck said. “If I could point to one thing that I feel like has helped me in my career, it’s making every single thing you do, whether it’s practice or a game, make it like it’s the Super Bowl. That way you never play (down) to the level of your opponent, or if you’re in a big game, it’s not like, ‘Wow, this is a big game.’ This is what you do all the time.”

Nate Washington, who has 10 catches for 228 yards and two TDs on the season said the Titans have confidence in Hasselbeck.

“We probably have the best second-string quarterback in the league,” Washington said. “We’re very confident in what he does and his experience and just knowing the ins and outs of the NFL. We’re looking forward to a big Sunday.”

Washington said Hasselbeck’s depth of experience allows him to dictate tempo, moving the offense faster and slowing down a defense.

“He’s so confident in what he does,” Washington said. “I think sometimes, and not saying that he’s not confident, but Jake can get in there and defenses can try to confuse him so much that he has to take his time and make sure that he’s making the proper read. With Matt, you know, he doesn’t care. I think he has the mentality that it’s all about what he wants to do. With that being said, he comes in a lot of times with the confidence that he’s going to get the job done.”

Repeatedly making quick decisions may help the Titans against the Vikings’ vaunted pass rush that has recorded 12 sacks so far this season.

Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen has 34 sacks in the past 29 games and an NFL-best 107 since he entered the league in 2004. Allen called Hasselbeck a “huge threat” because of how quickly he distributes the ball.

“He knows his reads, and you’re really going to have to do stuff coverage-wise to try to cloud his reason and buy a little time to get there,” Allen said.

When told that, Hasselbeck joked: “I know that’s something he’s told me that frustrates him, so that’s good.”

“He’s a really good player and good guy,” Hasselbeck added. “I saw him this offseason at (Bruce Matthews’) golf tournament and tried to butter him up a little bit, but I don’t know if it worked.”   

BRITT UPDATE: The status of Kenny Britt for Sunday’s game is a little less clear. Britt suffered an ankle injury on Sept. 23 against Detroit and missed last week’s game at Houston.

“He just came out and did individual (drills),” Munchak said. “He’s taking the next step as far as being on the field, running again. Again, an ankle — how he responds (Thursday), how much more he can do (Thursday). There’s no doubt he’s going to have to improve the next couple of days so he can help us on Sunday. At least he’s heading in the right direction.”

Britt said he was “just easing it in right now” but hopes to return to action Sunday.

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