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Titans Continue Evaluation of Centers

Posted Aug 10, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rob Turner got the first start at center this preseason for Tennessee, and coach Mike Munchak isn't ready just yet to say who's up next.

Clockwise from top left: Rob Turner, Fernando Velasco, Brian Schwenke and Chris Spencer are competing for the Titans' starting center spot.
Click here for a slideshow from Saturday's practice.

Munchak promised competition, and that's exactly what's going on at center.

It could be Fernando Velasco, who started 13 games at center last season, starting when the Titans visit Cincinnati on Aug. 17. Veteran Chris Spencer worked with the first-team Saturday, and even rookie Brian Schwenke still has a chance despite missing more than a week with an injured left hamstring.

"That's obvious they haven't made a decision," Turner said. "We've rotated, and it just depends on what day it is as to who's with which group and which position. Today I played both guard spots, Fernando was second center, Chris first center. Last week I was at center, and they were in different spots. That's just kind of been the round-robin carousel that we've had right now."

The Titans' moves shoring up the middle of their offensive line didn't receive as much attention as signing new left guard Andy Levitre or drafting Chance Warmack for right guard. But they certainly made sure to add a mix of experience and youth to complete the retooling of the line between the tackles.

Munchak says they'd like to pick the starter in the next couple weeks.

"It's going to be a tough decision when the time comes, but we're going to have to make it pretty soon," Munchak said Saturday.

Velasco became a starter when Eugene Amano was lost for the season with a triceps injury a year ago. That was the first of four starters on the offensive line lost to season-ending injuries and helped prompt the roster turnover. Levitre was the big splash in free agency and Warmack the 10th overall pick in April. But they also signed Turner and Spencer while drafting Schwenke in the fourth round.

Only the chance to compete and contribute was promised to the veterans.

Velasco, signed in 2008 as a free agent out of Georgia, is a 6-foot-4, 308-pound lineman who has appeared in 48 games with 19 starts, including every game last season for the first time in the NFL.

Turner is listed with the same height and weight as Velasco. He spent his first five years with the New York Jets before being put on injured reserve in 2011 due to leg and ankle injuries, and Turner wound up in St. Louis in 2012 where he started 16 games with nine at center and seven at left guard.

Spencer easily is the most experienced with 68 of his 85 starts at center at Seattle and Chicago. He wanted the chance to get closer to home in Mississippi and like Turner the chance to play for offensive line coach Bruce Matthews and Munchak — Hall of Fame offensive linemen.

"Two guys who played offensive line, you get a fair shot and that's what I was looking for, a place I could go to get a fair shot and compete," Spencer said.

Schwenke appears to be the Titans' center of the future with the timing only delayed somewhat by his injury.

He took part in individual drills Saturday for his first work since aggravating his hamstring July 27. But he has a bit more size at 6-3, 318 pounds, and he has plenty of experience in college where he played 48 games at California. He also had 12 starts last season at center.

Munchak said Schwenke's injury does make it harder.

"But, again, we've been bragging on him that he's a special guy that we think can still help us this year," Munchak said. "We're just kind of waiting to see now. He lost some good valuable time that we can't get back, so now it's a just a matter of seeing how he handles this week."

Notes: WR/KR Marc Mariani, trying to return from a broken leg that ended last season, will miss a couple weeks after bruising his shoulder. Munchak said Mariani was hurt Thursday night when blocked on a play. ... K Rob Bironas (sore back) is expected to return to practice Monday. ... A handful of Titans were given the day off with soreness including DT Sammie Hill (elbow), FB Quinn Johnson (hamstring) and S Daimion Stafford.

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