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Notebook: Titans Confident Ryan Fitzpatrick Ready for Role

Posted Oct 1, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans defenders want to continue their roll, and offensive players want to quickly develop one with Ryan Fitzpatrick this week.

The Titans want to provide a supporting cast for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is filling in for Jake Locker against Kansas City.
Click here for the slideshow from the Titans 38-13 win over the Jets.

Fitzpatrick will start at quarterback in place of Jake Locker when Tennessee (3-1) hosts Kansas City (4-0) Sunday at LP Field. Locker suffered hip and knee sprains last week against the New York Jets, but the Titans were encouraged by that diagnosis because it is not as severe as it could have been. The team predicts that Locker will “miss a few weeks.”

Players said they expect Fitzpatrick, who has 68 career starts to do well in the role, and both sides of the football said they want to be a great supporting cast.

Tennessee’s defense ranks in the top 10 in multiple categories, including seventh in points per game (17.3), and the Titans are tied with the Chiefs for the league lead in turnover margin (plus-nine).

“That’s going to be the biggest thing is making sure we hold our ground until ‘Fitz’ gets in the rhythm,” defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. “I don’t think it’s going to slack off at all. I think it’s going to be able to go throughout the week and get it going with our guys. Fitz is a great player, and I think he’s going to do a great job out there.”

Fitzpatrick replaced Locker in the third quarter and went 3-for-8 for 108 yards, which was highlighted by a 77-yard TD pass to Nate Washington in the fourth quarter. The nature of entering the game at a moment’s notice with a substantial lead made protecting the lead and finishing the game the focus.

Receiver Damian Williams and tight end Delanie Walker said they think the entire offense will benefit from a full week of repetitions beginning Wednesday. With the benefit of more reps during training camp, Fitzpatrick was 23-for-32 passing (71.9 percent) for 296 yards with five touchdowns and one interception for a 127.1 passer rating.

“We’re going to miss Jake and we wish him to a speedy recovery,” Williams said. “He is our general, he is our quarterback, he’s the leader of our team and one of our captains, but at the same time we’ve got to keep going.

“People are acting like Ryan’s a rookie quarterback or something like that,” Williams added. “Ryan’s been around for a while. He’s made a lot of plays in this league. He turned Buffalo around significantly in the way they were playing. Ryan is a great quarterback, a spunky guy, a crafty guy, and I think he’s going to do well for us.”

Walker experienced a quarterback change at San Francisco last season when an injury to Alex Smith led to an opportunity to for Colin Kaepernick to step in. The 49ers were the only team in the NFL out of eight who started a backup QB in at least two games in 2012 to make the playoffs. Smith is scheduled to start for the Chiefs.

Walker said establishing timing between Fitzpatrick and receivers will be important this week.

“You’ve just got to get the timing of the game. You’ve got to get the feel of that quarterback,” Walker said. “He’s got to feel you out and see how you run your routes, the speed you run it, and him seeing the defense and putting us in the right formations and the right calls, so it’s going to be us getting out there and working with him at practice and getting some extra time with him after practice.

“I think Ryan is capable of doing the same things Jake was doing, and we’re going to play Titans football,” Walker said. “We like to pound it and then hit them deep with some passes.”

This is the third time in four seasons that the Titans have started a backup QB in one or more games. In 2010, the Titans started Vince Young eight games, Kerry Collins seven games and Rusty Smith one game, and last season Matt Hasselbeck started five games in backing up Locker.

Casey said the Titans have done a good job of filling in for other injured players this season.

“I would say so because the past couple of years when guys have come in, it was kind of a slow pickup,” Casey said. “This year we’ve had guys go down throughout these games and guys filled right in. The thing we harp on in practice is everybody gets a shot at going with the ones, so everybody knows what their job is, everybody knows what they’ve got to do. I think it should be no problem.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said he thinks the structure of this team may be better prepared for the QB transition. He recalled another time in Titans history when Neil O’Donnell replaced Steve McNair, who had back surgery after the 1999 season opener, for five games.

The Titans went 4-1 in those games, with O’Donnell completing 104 of 172 passes (60.5 percent) for 1,209 yards and eight touchdowns against four interceptions for a passer rating of 87.6. The wins were 26-9 against Cleveland, 20-19 at Jacksonville, 14-11 against Baltimore and 24-21 at New Orleans and helped Tennessee finish 13-3 in the regular season and go on to win the AFC Championship.

“I think you could look at those types of things, saying they’re similar situations with a veteran quarterback taking over for a young guy in a tough spot early in the season,” Munchak said. “But, (Fitzpatrick is) here for that reason, to weather the storm, to bring us together, and find a way to win this game Sunday.”

BRITT MAKING PROGRESS: Kenny Britt didn’t play Sunday against the Jets because of a rib injury he suffered against the Chargers, but the receiver said he feels better “each and every day.”

Britt said he understood the decision to make him inactive against the Jets because he wasn’t 100 percent. Munchak said the fact that Britt had missed practice time last week also factored into the decision.

Britt said he hopes to practice fully Wednesday and be available for Sunday’s game.

INJURY UPDATES: Munchak said Blidi Wreh-Wilson’s hamstring flared up, adding “It doesn’t look bad, but it’s one of those things that it’ll probably be until the end of the week before we know where he’s at.”

Munchak thinks special teams captain Patrick Bailey, who missed the Jets game with a hamstring, should be better off this week. Bailey’s need to be inactive led to the NFL debut of Zaviar Gooden, who returned from an ankle sprain he suffered during training camp. Munchak said Gooden “did a nice job” in playing 23 special teams snaps in his first appearance in a Titans uniform.

Munchak said the goal this week is for Shonn Greene (knee) and Sammie Hill (ankle) to participate in individual drills this week. Greene suffered his injury in the season opener at Pittsburgh, and Hill was injured in Week 2 at Houston.

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