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Notebook: Ryan Fitzpatrick Shifts to Driver's Seat for Titans

Posted Nov 12, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Blustery conditions met the Titans on the practice field Tuesday, but Ryan Fitzpatrick shrugged them off.

Fitzpatrick has experienced much harsher weather during his four previous seasons in Buffalo, where he started 52 games.

“My wife and I were the only two to walk our son to the bus stop today,” Fitzpatrick said. “Everybody else drove their cars, so that was a little different.”

Fitzpatrick joined the Titans this offseason to back up Jake Locker, who suffered a season-ending foot injury Sunday against Jacksonville. Fitzpatrick started two games for Locker earlier this season and has moved into the driver’s seat for Tennessee’s offense.

“I’m no longer the guy that’s holding the seat warm for Jake, with him being out the remainder of the year now, it’s my gig and the communication has to step up that much more,” Fitzpatrick said.

Wearing a beard that gets bushier by the day, Fitzpatrick said an increased comfort with teammates and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains helped him to his best passing performance of the season in relief of Locker against the Jaguars. He was 22-of-33 passing for 264 yards and two touchdown passes and added a short TD run.

“I felt more comfortable going into the last game for whatever reason, being thrown into the fire like that than I have the two previous starts,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think the two starts and getting the experience with the guys on the field and having a feel for them and them having a feel for me (helped).”

Loggains said he was pleased with the way Fitzpatrick executed the offense and moved the ball in his “best game as a Titan to this point.” Loggains said he is spending more time tailoring the offense to Fitzpatrick than during the first span that Locker missed because the switch is not temporary.

“Now, it’s Ryan’s offense, so the direction of it can change because before it was stop-gap, it was Jake’s offense and we’re going to still play around his strengths and can’t be too drastic,” Loggains said. “Now, we need to play to Ryan’s strengths.”

The Titans (4-5) host the AFC South-leading Colts (6-3) at LP Field on Thursday Night Football. The short week caused Tennessee to streamline some of the game plan, but still offered opportunities for the offense to improve its continuity.

“I feel like Ryan and I were in a little better rhythm this week when he came in than the previous two games, and I think it’s getting used to each other and understanding his strengths and what he feels comfortable with,” Loggains said. “A lot of these guys have been in the league for as long as I have and have concrete thoughts and things they do well and things they don’t do well so we need to play to their strengths.”

The Titans know the importance of this game, since three straight road games — Oakland, Indianapolis and Denver — follow.  Tennessee hopes to get out to a fast start after stumbling against Jacksonville and missing the opportunity to gain a game in the standings on the Colts.

“It will be important to get out there and get some momentum because our team, and a lot of teams in general, you can feel that momentum, it feels like the football field gets slanted a little and you get on a roll and start scoring points so it would be good to get that going early,” Fitzpatrick said.

“WIGGLE ROOM”: The Titans promoted Devon Wylie to the 53-man roster Tuesday, one week after signing him to their practice squad. Wylie got the nickname “Wiggles” when he was in college at Fresno State because of the shiftiness he showed as a return specialist.

“Being wiggly is what I’ve been described as,” Wylie said. “I’ll be moving real quick out there, so it will be a lot of fun.”

Wylie is expected to replace Damian Williams, who suffered an injury to his hip area during a punt return Sunday in his second game in the role. The time that Williams will be sidelined is unclear.

Wylie was selected by Kansas City in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft but waived after training camp this season. He also spent time on the practice squads of Arizona and Pittsburgh.

“Every team has a different atmosphere and different group of guys and different coaches and different feel of the organization,” Wylie said. “It’s really great here. I like it a lot. Everyone has been welcoming and coaches are picking me up to speed with everything so you’ve got to be very adaptable when it comes from going team to team.”

Wylie said he’s been working on timing with the return units and said the best introduction he can make to teammates is by contributing significantly.

“It’s really motivated me because it gives me a chance to give a spark and almost make me more welcome to the team. That’s something you’ve got to earn,” Wylie said. “Every team is built during training camp, and I’ve come in late and want these guys to know I’m not here to mess around. I’m here to help the team win.”

SPENCER EXPECTED TO START: Veteran offensive lineman Chris Spencer is likely to start at center in place of Brian Schwenke (ankle). Spencer replaced Schwenke against Jacksonville and has worked a considerable amount with Fitzpatrick since both joined the Titans this spring.

The short week made it less likely that Schwenke will be available to be the reserve interior offensive lineman, but the Titans were able to add depth and experience by signing Kevin Matthews, who played in 17 games with Tennessee from 2010-12 and knows the offense and the protections.

“It’s kind of like what we did last year when we brought Kyle DeVan back, somebody that was comfortable,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “When you have two days to get a center ready, and with Schwenke being in his situation, we thought it was the best thing for us to have someone if someone else got hurt at guard or center in the game, we’ll have someone that knows the offense.”

OTHER INJURIES: In addition to Williams and Schwenke, Zaviar Gooden (hamstring) and Tommie Campbell (shoulder) did not practice, but Moise Fokou (knee) was limited and David Stewart practiced fully after missing the past two games.

“(Stewart) practiced and looked about as good as he’s looked, so that’s a positive for the offensive line,” Munchak said. “(Fokou) did the scout stuff and a little bit on defense, so we’ll have to see how he responds. It’s tough because we’re playing Thursday, but he’s definitely getting closer.”

Click here for the full injury report.

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