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Jake Locker's Status vs. 49ers Questionable, but QB Stays in Conversation

Posted Oct 18, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans know that center Brian Schwenke will make his first NFL start Sunday, but haven’t decided the player to whom the rookie will be snapping the football.

Jake Locker continued progressing from hip and knee sprains he suffered Sept. 29 and was listed as a full participant for the first time since the injuries. Titans coach Mike Munchak said Locker is questionable Sunday for San Francisco’s 3:05 p.m. (CT) visit to LP Field.

“We’re not really leaning any way; it’s just that Jake (Locker) has done well,” Munchak said. “He was better today; did everything we wanted him to do, and now we need to spend some time with him, talk as an offense, and decide what we think is best for Sunday.”

Munchak said Locker will have a “big say” in the decision that will be based largely on what the quarterback and team think he can do and any limitations that may still exist, particularly with his mobility.

“That’s the thing we have to be comfortable with; that’s the stuff you look at to see how much we had him to do this week and if that would affect our game plan,” Munchak said. “Those are the factors you have to think about that maybe we like what we’re seeing, and, ‘Hey, he got through practice, but ultimately, we don’t think it’s in his best interest to play right now because of these things.’

“That’s where we’ll make that decision and let him know we decided not to play him for this reason or this reason,” Munchak continued. “So, that’s the hard part of this because there’s only so much you can find out in practice. The good thing is he didn’t have a major problem where it was easy to say he can’t play. So, at least that’s a good thing, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to play 70 plays on Sunday either. You kind of have to weigh the other factors, and it’s hard.”

Locker said this week that he’s prepared every week since the injury as if he were playing even when he was obviously ruled out against Kansas City and wasn’t going to be available at Seattle.

Locker is 69-of-111 passing for 721 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 99.0. Locker had a career-high three TD passes against the New York Jets before leaving the game in the third quarter after he was pinballed on hits by Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed with the Titans this offseason, replaced Locker and has started the past two games. Fitzpatrick is 41-of-78 passing for 526 yards with two TDs and four interceptions for a passer rating of 61.2.

Munchak said the Titans (3-3) added reps this week so that Locker and Fitzpatrick could feel as prepared as possible to face the 49ers (4-2).

The Titans used Thursday to put the most physical stress on Locker to challenge his mobility and see how his body responded, and he took a considerable amount of throws to the end zone during the part of practice that is open to the media. Munchak said the amount of Friday’s total reps were “pretty close.”

He said Locker’s recovery accelerated this week (click here for the transcript of Munchak’s practice report).

“I wouldn’t think last week at this time we’d be talking about this as much,” Munchak said Friday. “I’ve learned how he is. He kept saying, ‘I’m going to be in the conversation for San Francisco,’ and we thought, ‘Yeah, it would be great if you were.’ We were thinking like most people were, and he put himself in that situation (to be in the conversation about playing). That’s a credit to him and the training staff. Like you said, when we saw him hurt that day, we never thought he’d be back this quickly, so we’ll see.”

As for Schwenke’s part in the exchange, the fourth-round pick hasn’t done many snaps with Locker or Fitzpatrick but said he felt like he’s already developed a familiarity with both. The Titans are moving Schwenke into the role after starting Rob Turner for the first six games of the season.

“I don’t know what the whole situation is, and honestly I don’t know who is playing, so it’s really a matter of getting that feel down,” Schwenke said. “I haven’t snapped to Jake that much at all through the year, so just getting comfortable with him at all, you kind of hold on to that, because I haven’t snapped to Fitz in weeks and it’s the same thing, you still have that connection and feel. I feel like after a few snaps now, I’m completely comfortable with either of them.”

Schwenke played collegiately at California, across the bay from San Francisco, where he was surrounded by 49ers fans. He’s expecting a challenge from the defending NFC champs, but is excited about the opportunity. Schwenke and right guard Chance Warmack, who was selected with the 10th overall pick, have adjacent lockers and coaches are hoping the tandem will play alongside each other for years.

“It’s going to make it fun,” Schwenke said. “I don’t know if it’s going to help us play football any better but we’re going to have that attitude that we’re out there to have fun and beat up on people.”

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