Titans’ Hasselbeck trying to hold off Locker

The Titans have plenty of sidebars that will make training camp a little more interesting to follow than usual.

There is, of course, the Kenny Britt saga, with the talented wide receiver beginning training camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list, and his arrest the week before camp opened for DUI at an army post in Fort Campbell, Ky., about an hour northwest of Nashville. Through the first couple of days at least, Britt has been squirreled away, out of sight from the media.

Then, there is the matter with Kendall Wright, the team’s top draft pick, who remained unsigned the first couple of days after camp opened as his agent and the team try to settle differences on offset language and guaranteed money in his rookie contract.

But those matters should eventually be resolved. The real issue in training camp for the Tennessee Titans is who will be the team’s starting quarterback. Will it be Matt Hasselbeck, who delivered a solid performance last year after coming aboard post-lockout as a free agent. Or will be the young man Hasselbeck is charged with mentoring, Jake Locker, last year’s first-round pick.

Coach Mike Munchak has thrown the competition for the starting spot wide open between the two, going so far as to alternate reps in practice, even within the same series.

“We think that’s the best way to do it, for them to compete that way, to avoid a lot of things,” Munchak said, “Avoid looking at the script beforehand, knowing what plays you are going to get, knowing who you are working with.

“That way coaches can make more of the decisions on what they want to see them doing, who they want to see them with. Like I mentioned, we will do that with the quarterback position. We did it with the offensive line. We’ll do it with some defensive positions throughout camp and try to find the right mixture as a group.”

Munchak wants to have the matter settled by the third preseason game, because he want to give the winner of the quarterback derby as much time as possible to settle in as the starter before the season opener on Sept. 9 vs. New England.

Both Hasselback and Locker know what is at stake, and though, they have become good friends, each has gone about readying himself to be the starting quarterback.

Hasselbeck, who turns 37 in September, took his offseason time extra seriously in preparation for camp and holding on to the job. Between the Titans and his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, Hasselbeck has been a starter in the league since 2001.

“I played it more safe and I didn’t really travel. I didn’t really go anywhere for fun. Everywhere I went, I had a purpose. If I was going somewhere, then throwing and working out was priority No. 1 all the time,” Hasselbeck said.

Locker, too, is excited for the opportunity and knows what he wants to show the coaches, even if he isn’t quite sure what it might take to put him over the top on the depth chart in his second season.

“Exactly what I need to show them, I don’t really know,” Locker said. “But my goal to show them is that I’m comfortable within this offense, that I’m confident in myself and my abilities in this offense, and that it wouldn’t be too big for me.”

As the evaluation process plays out, Munchak says the Titans can’t overlook any area, nor can they over-analyze things either.

“You’re looking at everything. You can’t overanalyze. It’s not just the quarterback, there’s everything,” he said. “You’re kind of taking it all in on the field. You can see things on the field obviously you cannot see on film. That’s the type of stuff … the interactions, how they respond to each other, how they respond after maybe a couple of bad plays, how they take the coaching. Those are the things you see on the field-the body language.”

When all is said and done, it will probably come down to who does more in making the Titans a better team.

“The bottom line is winning football games, and we feel the guy that’s going to move the team the best, put more points on the board, and on and on is what you’re looking at,” Munchak said.

NOTES, QUOTES

–Quarterback Jake Locker got the call with the starting unit on the first day of practice, and promptly had his first pass in the drill picked off by safety Michael Griffin.

“You have to get the bad ones out of the way,” Locker said.

Coach Mike Munchak took a glass half full approach, especially since the Titans rewarded Michael Griffin with a five-year, $36 million extension after he had been franchised.

“I look on the other side and say it is a great start for Michael Griffin,” Munchak said. “Looking at it that way, he made a big play, we signed him to big contract and we expect big plays and there you go. He made one. That is the beauty of being the head coach: you can jump sides. It was a positive and I think Jake was trying to help him out.”

–The quarterback competition has some of the other Titans players trying to make sure they are at their best as the competition rises throughout camp. WR Nate Washington noted that no one wants to let either Jake Locker or Matt Hasselbeck down.

“You do feel a little bit of pressure when you’re the guy on the other end receiving and the passes that are coming from that particular guy,” receiver Nate Washington said. “Both of them have worked so hard and have excelled so well in their craft, you want to make sure you give them an equal opportunity. You don’t to be the guy, here you are making all types of amazing catches for one guy, and the other guys is hitting you dead in the chest with the football, and you’re dropping it. It’s kind of a little pressure, but at the same time, it’s a good type of pressure.”

–RB Chris Johnson, who knows a thing or two about holdouts, as he held out all of camp and preseason last year before getting a $53 million extension, says the rival Jacksonville Jaguars should give in to holdout running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

“I feel like he’s worth a new deal. You look at Jacksonville. He’s basically their whole offense. I feel like it wouldn’t be smart for their organization not to pay him. But if they don’t they’ll be doing us a favor,” Johnson said.

Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing last season.

–The Titans biggest issues are with WRs Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright. Britt begins camp on PUP after undergoing his third knee procedure since last October. He tore his ACL and MCL in his right knee last September, and since then has not only had that knee reconstructed, but had a clean-up procedure in May. Britt then had his “healthy” left knee scoped in June.

Britt also is dealing with legal and league issues stemming from a DUI arrest on an army post at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Wright remained unsigned at the start of training camp, as his agents and the Titans continued to haggle over guaranteed money in the fourth year of the contract and offset language.

QUOTE TO NOTE:

“It’s like a chess match, except that somebody is punching you in the mouth, too.” – DE Dave Ball on the battle in the trenches for a defensive end.