NFL

Titans S Hope practices for 1st time since injury

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)

Tennessee Titans safety Chris Hope has returned to practice for the first time since breaking his left forearm Oct. 2.

Returning to the starting spot the veteran's held since being signed as a free agent in 2006 may take a little longer.

Coach Mike Munchak said Wednesday that they must see how Hope responds to practicing over the next few days. That will determine how much Hope is able to play Sunday when the Titans (4-4) visit Carolina (2-6), and Munchak says he expects the veteran to rotate with Jordan Babineaux.

''I don't expect him to be able to come out and miss, I don't know how much it's been ... five weeks, that he'd be able to come in and his endurance and all those things be where we could put him in position to play that much,'' Munchak said.

Munchak said he will talk with defensive coordinator Jerry Gray on Friday to get a feel for how ready Hope could be to face the Panthers.

''The starting thing's not as important,'' Munchak said. ''It's more about can he contribute to us winning this Sunday.''

Hope went straight from practice to treatment to a meeting and was not available to talk in the locker room. The 10-year veteran has started 77 straight games for Tennessee, and the only time he hasn't played is when he's been hurt. In 2007, he missed five games when placed on injured reserve due to a neck injury and went to the Pro Bowl after the 2008 season. He missed two games after dislocating a shoulder in the opener at Jacksonville.

The Titans are paying Hope $6.5 million this season in the final year of his contract.

They also brought Babineaux in during training camp for his experience with Gray's defensive approach after playing for the coach in Seattle last season. Babineaux, playing on a one-year deal, currently leads the Titans with 70 tackles. He also has an interception returned for a touchdown after replacing Hope in a 31-17 win over Cleveland on Oct. 2.

As Hope returned to practice, the Titans gave six players the day off Wednesday, including quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The 13-year veteran has a sore knee, but Munchak said it was a coaching decision to give him the day off to rest. Hasselbeck is expected back on the field Thursday.

Defensive end Dave Ball likely will not practice all week and is doubtful for the game with Carolina after suffering a concussion in the 24-17 loss to Cincinnati last week.

Receiver Nate Washington (sore hip) is expected back Friday along with linebacker Barrett Ruud (groin), tight end Jared Cook (knee) and fullback Ahmard Hall (back). Washington said after practice he's already feeling better than a day ago and will have no problem being ready for the game.

Receiver Lavelle Hawkins, who had an open dislocation of the index finger of his right hand, practiced.

Tagged: Titans, Chris Hope, Jordan Babineaux

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