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Notebook: Titans Prepare C Brian Schwenke for First NFL Start

Posted Oct 17, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Brian Schwenke will arrive at LP Field with some mysteries remaining.

He’ll be excited about the opportunity to start his first NFL game when Tennessee hosts San Francisco and anticipating a challenge from the 49ers’ physical defense.

He’ll also be grateful for the certainty that he won’t be tasked with the pregame workout that Titans strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson has put Schwenke and other inactive players through each week.

“It’s going to be awesome. The game might be easier than that pregame workout,” said Schwenke, a fourth-round draft pick that the Titans graded the highest of any center in the NFL Draft.

The Titans said Schwenke progressed well during the offseason program before a hamstring injury hampered him. After a position battle in training camp, Tennessee opted to go with veteran Rob Turner in the first six games of the season between free agent left guard Andy Levitre and rookie right guard Chance Warmack.

Titans coach Mike Munchak and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said Schwenke has shown in recent practices that he’s ready for the opportunity. San Francisco visits LP Field at 3:05 p.m. (CT) Sunday for the “Code Blue” game.

“He’s done a nice job. For him, it’s just going to be going out there and playing in a game again (because) he hasn’t experienced that in a while,” Munchak said. “So, that’s going to be the interesting part with how fast the game’s going to be moving when we get started.

“He’s got everything else; we’re not concerned for that mentally, physically (because) that’s all good,” Munchak added. “I think he communicates well with the guys, and he’s worked with them throughout OTAs and camp. I think he’ll be fine. I think there will be some things that will be challenging. This is a good group of guys he’s playing against, but we feel good about the push and some of the things he should be able to do that we haven’t been doing the last few weeks.”

Rookie Brian Schwenke participates in a drill during practice Thursday. The fourth-round pick will play his first pro action in the regular season and make his first NFL start when Tennessee hosts San Francisco.

What Schwenke lacks in experience at the professional level, he makes up for in athleticism — mobility and physicality — for a guy his size.  

“The way I see myself, I don’t think there’s a more physical player in the league,” Schwenke said. “That’s how I go out there, thinking every single play, and whether it’s true or not, that’s a different story.”

Loggains said the Titans have “high expectations” for Schwenke.

“He’s big, solid, extremely athletic for his size, so when we play a 3-4 defense, the burden sometimes falls on the center to block the nose (tackle), so it’s a big challenge and we feel good about his ability to get that done,” Loggains said.

The 49ers are the sixth of seven opponents this season the Titans have played with a defense ranked in the top-10 and the sixth opponent that uses elements of a 3-4 as its base defense.

“They’re a very solid group of guys,” Schwenke said. “I like challenges and it’s going to be tough for me to go out there, especially in my first real NFL game, but I’m looking forward to it.”

The Titans want to see how much power can be generated by the combination of Schwenke and Warmack, who was selected with the 10th overall pick.

Munchak said the possibility is similar to when the Houston Oilers drafted him, Bruce Matthews and Dean Steinkuhler in the first rounds of the 1982-84 NFL Drafts and the three players formed a chemistry that spanned several seasons.

“It almost elevates your game a little bit when you have that rookie brotherhood thing there,” Munchak said. “The two of them together have some great power. I think they’re excited about that, and the two of them are hoping to take that pride thing and show what they can do. I think it will be fun to watch. I think they’ll do well together and hopefully it’s something we’ll see for a long time.”

LOCKER, GREENE PRACTICE AGAIN: Titans quarterback Jake Locker and running back Shonn Greene responded well enough to Wednesday’s practice that they were able to go again Thursday. Neither player has been ruled a “no” or a “go” for Sunday’s game.

“There’s certain things that don’t feel normal yet, but I’m feeling pretty good, and every day I’m trying to progress with that stuff,” Locker said during a media session. “There’s just new things each day and seeing what feels good and where my comfort level is with it.”

Munchak said Locker took more reps in 11-on-11 team periods in addition to individual and 7-on-7 drills. The Titans also had Locker test his movement when he wasn’t taking reps by simulating moves around and out of the pocket and on scrambles.

Greene, who suffered a knee injury in the season opener, participated in individual, 7-on-7 and 9-on-7 drills. He said he wants to become more confident in cutting and running routes and will see how he feels after Friday’s practice.

BRITT STILL WORKING: Kenny Britt’s action was limited last week at Seattle but he caught the ball that was thrown to him late in the game. Loggains said the fact that Tennessee was limited to 52 offensive plays constricted opportunities for Britt and others.

“Kenny probably didn’t play as many snaps as he would have liked, but I still consider him part of the offense,” Loggains said. “There’s still stuff that’s designed for him when he’s in the game. It depends on the flow of the game. If we’re running the ball well and doing those things, then the number of snaps goes up, but if we’re struggling at running the football and you’re only getting 50 snaps a game, obviously no one is getting their number called like they want.”

Loggains said Britt is working hard to move past some drops he had earlier this season.

“I think every time you respond in a situation, your number is called more often,” Loggains said. “We’re excited about the way he’s practiced. When he was given the opportunity last week, he took advantage and that’s a good sign.”

INJURY UPDATES: Munchak said David Stewart (ankle) was “probably as good as he’s looked on a Thursday maybe since before the Pittsburgh game,” and the coach is hoping the right tackle who has usually been practicing one day a week, will be able to do so again Friday. Click here to see the full injury report.

Moise Fokou (knee) and Zaviar Gooden (hamstring) did not practice and will not play Sunday. Bernard Pollard (ankle) and Derrick Morgan (shoulder) did not practice Thursday. Munchak said Pollard is likely to practice Friday, and the Titans are hopeful Morgan will be able to do so.

“It’s more how much can (Morgan) can contribute, can he do what he needs to do to play in the game with his pass rush and that type of thing,” Munchak said. “He’s getting better but it’s just one of those things where we have to see where he’s at (Friday).”

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