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Notebook: Justin Hunter Reclaims Winning-TD Ball to Give to Mother

Posted Sep 23, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The catch was almost automatic. What to do next wasn’t.

Titans rookie receiver Justin Hunter followed the pass from Jake Locker through the air, reacted to it and secured the 34-yard completion to lift the Titans past the Chargers 20-17 on Sunday. It was his first NFL catch and he put the ball on the ground after officials signaled the touchdown, but he was able to get the ball back as a memento.

“I was expecting a jump ball. It was a perfect ball,” Hunter said. “I didn’t have to jump like I thought I would have to. It just fell in my hands. I couldn’t hear anything. I was just silence and I saw my teammates coming for me.”

Hunter had the ball in his locker with his name written on a piece of athletic tape that spanned most of the broad side of the ball. He said he plans to give it to his mother.

By mid-Monday, Hunter said he’d watched the replay of the catch 12 times, almost seeking confirmation that the play was for real.

“I can’t believe it happened basically,” Hunter said. “It just played out so good for me.”

Justin Hunter celebrates his first NFL catch, a game-winning 34-yard TD against San Diego, as teammates run to congratulate him.
Click here to see the slideshow from the game.

Locker had tried to go to Hunter earlier in the game on a 44-yard pass to the end zone, but the play had been broken up by Chargers safety Eric Weddle. Hunter said he heard from second-year receiver Kendall Wright after both plays.

“He came to me and said, ‘You didn’t really want that touchdown’ (after the first). I just kept getting madder and madder. He came to me after the touchdown and said, ‘If you do that every time, nobody can stop you.’ ”

It was somewhat surprising to hear Hunter use the term “madder and madder” since he’s heard earfuls from offensive and defensive teammates and receivers coach Shawn Jefferson since arriving in the spring and maintained a calm demeanor and desire to use the feedback constructively.

“It brings the best out of you,” Hunter said. “I appreciate all the tough talk from (safety) Bernard (Pollard) and all that.”

Hunter was nominated for NFL Rookie of the Week. VOTE here.

OPTIONS OPEN: Injuries at other spots of the roster and the Titans’ pre-game belief that they might rely more on passing against San Diego, which has given up 340.7 passing yards per game, prompted Tennessee to make all six receivers on the 53-man roster active.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said those factors, combined with how Hunter has practiced, factored in to him getting the ball with the game on the line.

“Kendall (Wright) didn’t practice much last week, and Damian (Williams) was hurt (the week before), so all of a sudden, he’s getting a lot of reps. Practice counts,” Munchak said. “That’s what you try to tell them, and he’s gotten better in practice, and that allowed us to have the confidence in him. It’s not always what you see on a Sunday. Sometimes it’s what we see on a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and for a quarterback to feel comfortable that he’s catching them or breaking them up.”

Munchak said the Titans have confidence in all six receivers, and the staff will evaluate the game plan design for each upcoming opponent to help determine who is active on game days.  

“When you don’t have options, you’ve got to play with who you have,” Munchak said. “When you have six guys and six you have confidence in, you have to factor in, ‘Here’s how the Jets do things’ and what’s the best matchup for us to win the football game.”

WALKER’S BOOT: Tight end Delanie Walker was in a walking boot Monday to alleviate the amount of weight he put on his foot, but it’s assumed that Walker will be fine to play against the Jets, Munchak said.

“Just a little sore. The boot is helping me walk better,” Walker said. “I had an MRI done.”

Walker was awaiting results of the MRI, but joked, “I can play with the boot.”

GREENE UNLIKELY: Titans running back Shonn Greene said he’s disappointed by missing this week’s game against his former team but more so by missing the opportunity to play with Titans teammates.

Greene, who joined the Titans as a free agent after four seasons with the Jets, suffered a knee injury in Tennessee’s season opener at Pittsburgh. He underwent a surgical procedure Sept. 16.

“(It will take a) couple of weeks for the swelling to go down and stuff and to get the range of motion back,” Greene said.

INJURY UPDATES: Munchak said the hamstring suffered Sunday by Patrick Bailey is “very minor so we think he’s got a good chance to play this week.” … The Titans also think Blidi Wreh-Wilson (hamstring during practice last week) will be back.

“There’s some nicks and some guys that are sore, but nobody that we’ve lost or had to leave the game,” Munchak said. “We had guys leave the game, but they came back in.”

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