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Notebook: Titans GM Says QB Jake Locker is Coach Ken Whisenhunt's 'Kind of Guy'

Posted Feb 20, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said Thursday that he’s familiarized himself with Tennessee’s roster, but there are some things he won’t know about for sure until he’s allowed to work with players on the field.

Whisenhunt, who was hired last month, is looking forward to days in April when teams are allowed to begin an offseason workout program, followed by organized team activity practices in May. That month also could bring the return to football activities for quarterback Jake Locker, who is recovering from surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury that cut short his third pro season and second as a starter.

Ken Whisenhunt discusses the Titans during a media session Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. Click here for a slideshow.

“Well, Jake is obviously working to get back,” Whisenhunt said. “I don’t know a specific timeframe of when he can come back. We’re anticipating that we’ll have him to be able to work in the OTAs as we go forward. You want to have him involved with that because working with your team is an important piece of it, so we’re hoping the rehab schedule will continue on the pace and we’ll have him.”

In the meantime, however, Whisenhunt’s focus this week is the NFL Scouting Combine where more than 330 prospective draft picks have been invited to participate in on-field drills, media sessions and undergo medical exams. Offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists spoke to the media Thursday, and quarterbacks, running backs and receivers are scheduled to speak Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Whisenhunt has worked with Ben Roethlisberger, a QB who can extend offensive plays by moving around the pocket, in Pittsburgh and more stationary passers like Kurt Warner in Arizona and Philip Rivers last season as San Diego’s offensive coordinator. He said he likes the potential he’s seen from Locker on film.

“Well, from what I’ve seen, Jake exhibits a lot of qualities that you can get excited about,” Whisenhunt said. “I think one of the strengths that we’ve done is trying to tailor what we do to fit the player, and until we get on the field with Jake and see some of the things he can do, we don’t know. You don’t know which direction it’s going to go, but I’m excited about what I’ve seen as far as those qualities that he’s exhibited. I think the arrow is definitely going up, and I’m looking forward to working with him on the field.”

Titans general manager Ruston Webster said he liked the way Locker played when he was healthy in 2013 and is looking forward to seeing Whisenhunt work with the QB who suffered hip and knee sprains in the fourth game of the season and the season-ending foot injury in the Titans’ ninth game.

“I think that is going to be good,” Webster said. “Jake is his kind of guy from the standpoint of his work ethic and the way he attacks the game from a mental standpoint. Jake is going to be around the office all the time watching film and trying to get better, and I really think that is the first thing Coach Whisenhunt wants.”

NO RUSH ON CJ EVALUATION: Whisenhunt and Webster were asked about their evaluation of Chris Johnson and said the team has time to be patient in its decision on the running back, with the coach again citing his desire to work directly with Titans returning players. Some have speculated about Johnson’s future with the team because of the reported amount of money Johnson is scheduled to make, but Whisenhunt and Webster said there’s an evaluation process for every player.

So far, Whisenhunt said he’s seen “a player that’s there every Sunday” when watching Johnson’s film.

“He’s had a lot of success in the league, done good things, been to Pro Bowls,” Whisenhunt said. “You have a lot of respect for that. You can’t speak to anything other than he practiced every day from what I’ve seen when you look at the records from last year, and he played in a lot of games and he’s been a good football player.”

Webster said the Titans have time to allow Whisenhunt to continue evaluating the roster, including Johnson, who just finished his sixth season.

“Ken has to take some time because he has never coached Chris Johnson, so he is going through the evaluation process himself,” Webster said. “We are not going to push it. If we did make a decision, it would be whenever we felt comfortable.”

TITANS TALKING TO CB’S AGENT: The Titans don’t have the same amount of time with every player on the roster, however, as several are scheduled to become free agents next month. Cornerback Alterraun Verner is one such player.

When Webster was asked if the Titans and Verner’s agent have had discussions, the GM said, “We have been talking and we’ll continue to talk.”

Verner, meanwhile on Thursday, celebrated his wife giving birth to the couple’s first child at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital.

Verner posted on social media: “I have the strongest most determined wife ever! … Love this women and love this baby boy she pushed out! Got to be one of my most exciting days ever!”

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