Healthy Locker trying to take control of Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Jake Locker believes the best way to be a leader is by doing, not talking. It’s why the Titans quarterback worked so hard on his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery to be ready for the team’s offseason program.
So when the Titans start their organized team activities next week, Locker will be ready to throw without limitations. It’s just as he expected when he had surgery approximately 20 weeks ago to fix his left, non-throwing shoulder that popped out joint repeatedly in his first season as a starter.
“The way I looked at it if I wasn’t ready to go, then it was on me,” Locker said Tuesday. “I didn’t do what I was supposed to do to take care of my body.”
The Titans certainly have done their best to take care of Locker going into his third season in the NFL. They added a veteran left guard in Andy Levitre drafted two more offensive linemen including Chance Warmack of Alabama at No. 10, signed running back Shonn Greene to help Chris Johnson and used their second-round draft selection on a tall and speedy receiver in Justin Hunter
“We still have a lot of work to do, and that’s going to be important for the rest of these OTAs and minicamps and then into fall camp,” Locker said. “There’s going to have to be an emphasis on continuing to study, continuing to mentally grind so that you’re able to go out and compete at a high level and fast speed. I think if we’re able to do that, then this can be a really talented offense.”
The Titans certainly have plenty of room for improvement.
No NFL offense stayed on the field less than Tennessee with an average time of possession of 27 minutes, 18 seconds per game. The Titans ranked 26th in total offense with 313.1 yards per game and managed the fewest first downs of any team in the AFC.
Coach Mike Munchak and the Titans named Locker their starting quarterback in August only to see the eighth selection overall in 2011 dislocate his left shoulder in the opener. He started the next three games before the shoulder popped out of the socket again on Sept. 30, knocking Locker out of the next five games. Even when Locker returned, the shoulder continued to bother him when hit just right the rest of the season.
“You get used to it I guess,” Locker said.
That injury, combined with the Titans losing four of their five starting offensive linemen to injuries, proved an ugly combination. Locker finished the season ranked 28th among the NFL’s leading passers, ahead of only Brandon Weeden of Cleveland, Chad Henne of Jacksonville, Mark Sanchez of the Jets and Matt Cassel of Kansas City. Locker threw for 2,176 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He completed 56.4 percent of his passes with a 74 passer rating.
The Titans are installing a run-first offense with coordinator Dowell Loggains, and they sound ready to take advantage of Locker’s athleticism following the success of mobile quarterbacks Robert Griffin III Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick last season. How much the Titans can use Locker will depend heavily on the quarterback staying healthy.
“The most important thing is that Jake understand he has to get up and play the next play,” Loggains said earlier this month. “He plays sometimes with a linebacker mentality, and I know it’s sometimes for the effect. He wants his teammates to see how tough he is, but he needs to learn to take care of himself. You know his speed and the ability to run and throw on the run is something we want to take advantage of.”
The Titans cut veteran Matt Hasselbeck in March and signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to help back up Locker. Receiver Kendall Wright said he thinks Locker learned plenty from Hasselbeck about being a leader and looks like a veteran himself.
“He’s definitely taking control of it in meeting rooms and outside,” Wright said of Locker. “I mean he’s just being a leader like a quarterback should be. He’s leading us in every aspect, especially on the learning part as far as getting signals or play calling, whatever we have going in. I mean he’s just being a leader we need him to be.”
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