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Notebook: Titans RB Chris Johnson Looking Forward to Florida Homecoming

Posted Dec 19, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chris Johnson said Thursday the number of tickets that family and friends have requested for his return to his home state of Florida has climbed into the 30s.

After two straight games with temperatures below that, the Titans’ running back who prefers warm weather said he was excited by Sunday’s forecasted temperature of 81 degrees Fahrenheit in Jacksonville, about an hour-and-a-half from his hometown of Orlando.

“I heard it’s supposed to be like 80,” Johnson said. “It will feel good to be back home in Florida.”

The rematch of a Nov. 10 game is personal for Johnson and many Titans players and coaches. Tennessee (5-9) was 4-4 and Jacksonville (4-10) was 0-8 when the Jaguars visited LP Field. Johnson had a four-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage but Paul Posluszny forced and recovered a fumble at the Tennessee 19-yard line.

“The play we had called was a nice play. We had a positive gain and they made a nice play and knocked the ball out of my hands,” Johnson said. “I feel like it kind of sucked the whole momentum out of the stadium.”

Johnson has fumbled less than one percent of the times he’s touched the football (17 times on 1,693 carries and 268 receptions), but he said that one was “very frustrating.”

“When you don’t have a problem fumbling, it’s not something you think about but you can get lackadaisical with it, so it’s a situation where I’ve got to hold it tighter,” Johnson said.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said the team allowed things to go from “bad to worse” by quickly allowing a touchdown and committing more mistakes during the game.

“Games are going to happen like that. You’re going to have games where you fumble the ball and things don’t go your way early and you fall behind against a team at the time you think you should beat,” Munchak said. “You got to find a way to win that game. That would have been a great teaching moment for us. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish the game when we had to do it, so it made it worse than it needed to be.”

Turnovers have loomed large this season for the Titans, providing a bellwether for wins and losses. Tennessee is 5-2 when it is even or better in turnover ratio this season and 0-7 with a negative ratio.

When the teams last prepared to meet, Tennessee was plus-six (tied for seventh in the NFL in turnover ratio) and Jacksonville was minus-seven (tied for 26th). The Titans are now minus-three (tied for 18th), and the Jaguars are minus-four (tied for 21st) on the season. Tennessee narrowly missed multiple interceptions Sunday and has five takeaways (including two interceptions of Jacksonville QB Chad Henne in the first contest) in its past six games.

HYDRATION A KEY: Two weeks removed from playing the fourth-coldest game (18 degrees at kickoff in Denver) in Titans/Oilers franchise history, players are preparing for unprecedented heat in December. Records that go back through 1991 show the franchise hasn’t played a game in December when the temperature has been 81 degrees or warmer.  

Titans safety George Wilson said he remembered drastic temperature differences of 50 to 60 degrees when he was with Buffalo and the Bills would travel to Miami late in the season. He said proper hydration and nutrition during the week are important to minimize the impact and try to prevent cramps or muscle strains.

“This is a welcome changeup from what we’ve had the past couple of weeks but you have to be mindful of how you eat throughout the week and make sure you get a lot of carbs and electrolytes through your hydration because whenever you go through a drastic temperature change like that, it can be a shock to your system,” Wilson said.

WHIRLWIND WEEK: Rookie QB Tyler Wilson, who was signed Tuesday off Oakland’s practice squad, said he had to scramble this week.

“I left the facility in Oakland Monday night and got a call that said, ‘Can you get on a plane at 7:30?’ So I fought the rush-hour traffic and got to the airport and got here early (Tuesday) morning, so I’m getting more settled in now,” Wilson said.

The Raiders drafted Wilson in the fourth round but he went back and forth between Oakland’s 53-man and practice squad rosters this season.

“(It) tells you the value of being on an NFL roster and makes you appreciate that, so you come in every single day and definitely don’t take it for granted and take every single rep on the practice field very serious,” Wilson said. “It’s an honor to be here and I’m glad to be here and take advantage of every single minute.”

The Arkansas native who played collegiately in his home state said it was nice to land closer to home.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who also played for Arkansas, said he’s followed Wilson’s career since high school.

“He was a Razorback, a guy that our scouts and I had a good grade on coming out of the draft, and Oakland took him,” Loggains said. “It’s a great opportunity for him to come here and he’s a guy who can get in the mix and see how things go and run the system for a little while and see how he does.”

Loggains said it’s likely that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the final two games of the season and continue to be backed up by four-year pro Rusty Smith.

LOCKER STAYING INVOLVED: The Titans lost Jake Locker for the season to a foot injury the last time they played the Jaguars. Locker has already had surgery to repair the Lisfranc injury.

“I’m seeing him every day,” Loggains said. “He’s been frustrated because he thinks he can help this team, but he’s got a great attitude and is working hard to improve some of the stuff he can work on now in the upper body, working hard in the weight room and doing those types of things to make sure he can to get healthy and be back as fast as possible.”

Locker also this week hosted a shopping spree for critical and chronically ill children. It was the “Operation Elf” component of his “Pass It On Foundation” that was created this year.

INJURY UPDATES: Johnson was limited with a sore knee, Brian Schwenke (ankle) was limited and David Stewart (shoulder) did not practice. Jurrell Casey (shoulder), Alterraun Verner (groin) and Mike Martin (ankle) practiced fully. Click here for the full injury report.

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