Tennessee coach Mike Munchak expects Jake Locker to start Sunday

11/7/12 in NFL   |   BrianMaddock   |   1429 respect

Quarterback Jake Locker has been cleared for contact with just one game ahead of the bye week. And coach Mike Munchak will try to make the most of the opportunity to spark the Tennessee Titans offense after two straight losses and with owner Bud Adams’ warning of evaluating performances across the organization for the last seven games still ringing in his ears.
Jake Locker practiced with the Tennessee Titans’ starters on Wednesday with three-time Pro Bowler Matt Hesselbeck also taking snaps. But Mike Munchak is monitoring if Jake Locker fits in with the first-team offense after missing the last five games with a shoulder injury.
 "If we think he's ready to go, he'll play. I mean we'll see how he feels after today and how he does tomorrow in third-down stuff,” said Mike Munchak, “and just get a feel for just kind of the whole dynamic there. And then if he's ready, we'll give him a chance to start."
The 24-year-old Jake Locker re-injured his left, non-throwing shoulder during the Tennessee Titans’ 30th September 38-14 loss to the Houston Texans. Jake Locker initially sustained the injury while tackling a defender following an interception on an open play that was later ruled as an incompletion during the Tennessee Titans’ season opener against the New England Patriots.
Although Jake Locker returned to practice to practice on 17th October, he’s been working out with the practice squad on limited contact.
With the bye week just around the corner, the Tennessee Titans (3-6) could opt to give Jake Locker additional time to catch up with the offense instead of starting him up against the Miami Dolphins (4-4) on Sunday. But Mike Munchak sees no advantage to Jake Locker catching additional “rust” on the bench after he’s been cleared by the doctors.
"We all know there's going to be rust on a guy,’’ said Mike Munchak. “(But) If he waits two more weeks, he's going to be even rustier.”
“The advantage of waiting, there's really not an advantage to wait till after the bye because it would be a longer period of time since he's actually played in a game,” continued Mike Munchak. “Physically, we've been told he's fine to play."
And Jake Locker feels confident about his performance so far during practice, although he knows there are some relatively different experiences that can be only gained while starting against a real opponent.
"Physically I was able to keep myself in shape, and I was able to throw for most of it…Just kind of making sure that you're in the mental grind of it,” expressed Jake Locker, “but, you know, I tried to do that as well as I could, too. I prepared as if I was playing and tried to help Matt anyway I could.”
Matt Hesselbeck has started 0-2 in his career against the Miami Dolphins, but Jake Locker has yet to face them.
However, Mike Munchak believed Jake Locker’s greatest challenge will be to avoid getting hit so as not to get injured ahead of the bye-week. Mike Munchak said that Jake Locker will have to tone down on the aggressiveness and tackling defenders.
"He needs to avoid those kinds of things and taking useless hits and he'll be smarter getting rid of the ball quicker and moving around,” stated Mike Munchak, “and we have to be smarter with what we do with protections. We do that generally, so I think he'll be fine."
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