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Notebook: Jake Locker Ruled Out on Anniversary of Return

Posted Nov 11, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On the one-year anniversary of welcoming Jake Locker back from a shoulder injury to the starting lineup in a win at Miami, Titans coach Mike Munchak announced Monday that Locker will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury he suffered Sunday against Jacksonville.

Receiver Nate Washington said the injury to Locker will impact the team, but added “I don’t see us not being able to push forward.”   

The Titans (4-5) know that must occur Thursday at LP Field when Tennessee hosts AFC South-leading Indianapolis (6-3). A win pulls the Titans within one game of the Colts, but a loss would pin them three back with six to play.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, who replaced Locker against the Jaguars, will make his third start as a Titan, and Munchak said Rusty Smith will move to the backup QB spot.

“I’m not going to say it deflates us, but it would be very naïve to say it’s not going to hurt us,” Washington said. “Jake, his talent and his abilities, the ability to make plays sometimes is uncanny, his leadership, sometimes knowing if things break down, he has the ability of making plays. We’re just talking about Jake, what he’s able to bring to the table.

“We definitely believe in Ryan, we believe in Rusty stepping up if need be, but it would be very disrespectful to Jake to say we’re not going to miss him or say it’s not going to affect us in any manner,” Washington continued. “He’s a great leader. He does exactly what he’s asked, he’s always pushing guys to get better when they feel like they can’t, but with all that said, it’s nothing we can’t handle.”

Jake Locker will miss the remainder of the 2013 season and be replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Locker suffered a dislocated shoulder in the 2012 season opener making a tackle on a fumble return for a play that was later determined an incomplete pass. He hurt the shoulder again in Week 4, which cost him most of that game and the next five games before returning for the final seven.

After undergoing successful surgery on the shoulder in the offseason, Locker helped the Titans open 2013 with three wins in their first four games but suffered hip and knee sprains after pinballing off Jets DL Muhammad Wilkerson and LB Quinton Coples on hits that Tennessee believed were late.

“The first one was he dropped his helmet into him and unloaded on him, which you're supposed to pull back when you're late. The second one was totally unnecessary,” Munchak said shortly after the hits that drew fines against both players.

Locker stormed back into the lineup three weeks later against San Francisco with a knee brace that he continued to wear Sunday. He was injured running an option play but tried to persevere through it. The severity became obvious on the next play when he was unable to meet Chris Johnson to make a clean handoff, and Jacksonville recovered the fumble.

Munchak said he was disappointed for Locker and the team because it will stunt their growth together. He said Locker is in consultation with physicians and has not decided whether he will opt for surgery.

“When we were 3-1 we thought he was really coming into his own, and we thought the team was kind of coming together, becoming his,” Munchak said. “With the injury, like we all know, we kind of struggled after that point, more so than we thought we would, on offense especially. We got him back, but we didn’t think he was 100 percent comfortable yet — we thought that would be coming in the next eight weeks. To lose him now is a huge blow.”

But it doesn’t have to be the final one this season.

Fitzpatrick had his strongest passing performance this season in relief of Locker Sunday, going 22-for-33 for 264 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 111.2. He also rushed for a 4-yard score.

Tight end Delanie Walker caught a sharp pass from Fitzpatrick for a 14-yard touchdown late and said he thinks the nine-year NFL veteran will build off that performance.

“What Ryan did this last Sunday, I feel like he’s going to step right in,” Walker said. “He moved us down the field, put points on the board, and that’s what we need. We’re missing Jake, but Ryan’s got to step up and be that quarterback we need.

“He’s our starting quarterback, and we know that and he knows that,” Walker added. “Just from playing against the Jags, I feel like he’s going to make a big impact for us.”

SCHWENKE, WILLIAMS UPDATES: Munchak said doctors were still examining the injuries to rookie center Brian Schwenke (ankle) and receiver/return specialist Damian Williams (hip area), but neither is believed to be season-ending.

With the short week, it’s going to be hard for (Schwenke) to play. We’ll see how quickly he can come back and see if he can back up or where he’s at with that,” Munchak said. “He’s kind of day-to-day with that because those ankles can get better quickly or it could be something that’s going to take a little bit of time. We’re kind of holding our breath, and we’ll see.”

Veteran Chris Spencer replaced Schwenke in the first quarter, and as of Monday, was the only other center on the Titans’ roster because Rob Turner is on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

Munchak said less was known about Williams’ injury as of Monday evening. The Titans, he said, will look for another option as a return specialist in order to keep Alterraun Verner, who is tied for the league lead with five interceptions, fresh for defense.

SCHEDULE CHANGE: Because of the short week, the Titans altered their schedule to move a shake-out workout to later than they normally would the day after a game and held a walkthrough. In addition to Schwenke and Williams, Moise Fokou (knee), Zaviar Gooden (hamstring) and Chance Warmack (ankle) did not participate. David Stewart (shoulder) was limited and Tommie Campbell (shoulder) participated fully.

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