NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After nearly three full days of diagnosis, the Titans finally came out Tuesday afternoon with a prognosis for Jake Locker:
The Tennessee quarterback has a sprained hip and sprained knee, a pair of injuries that should allow Locker — a big part of the Titans’ 3-1 start — to return to action in due time.
In a statement released Tuesday, the team said, “We received reassuring reports from the second MRI today, and they confirmed that there was no major damage to Jake Locker’s hip joint — it is classified as a sprained hip.
“The area will need time to heal and strengthen, but he won’t require surgery and he has already begun a rehab routine for both his hip and knee. We certainly would expect him to miss a few weeks, but we are encouraged by the news today.”
Locker was injured in the third quarter, absorbing a post-pass hit from Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and, following the initial contact, linebacker Quinton Coples. Locker was transported from the field and to a hospital for initial tests Sunday night.
After more tests and MRIs on Monday and Tuesday, the prognosis that Locker could only miss up to a month was welcome news.
“I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers over the last 24 hours,” Locker said Monday in a statement released by the team. “I am going to work as hard as I can to get back as soon as I can. I believe in this team and will do whatever I can to help us win in the meantime.”
The No. 8 overall pick in 2011, Locker had not only seized the leadership of the offense, but the team, as well. Prior to getting hurt Sunday, he had guided the Titans to a 24-6 lead by completing 18 of 24 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns.
For the season, Locker has completed 69 of 111 passes for 721 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also rushed for 98 yards and has an overall passer rating of 99.0. That includes engineering a 94-yard, game-winning drive against the Chargers in Week 3.
“You don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Titans head coach Mike Munchak said, “but everything was going right for him. He was playing well the last couple weeks, doing exactly what we thought he would do, what he thought he was capable of.”
With the news, it is apparent the Titans will not put Locker on injured reserve, which would require him to be unavailable for eight weeks. Until Locker’s return, nine-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, the former Buffalo Bills quarterback, will take over the reins of the offense.
The Titans did not re-sign veteran Matt Hasselbeck during the off-season, but rather went with Fitzpatrick.
“We feel confident that if he had to go in for a game or two there wouldn’t be some huge drop off,” Munchak said of Fitzpatrick, who has thrown for more than 14,000 yards with 93 touchdown passes and 81 interceptions.
“He’s a guy that can step right in and have success,” Munchak added. “We have the right pieces of the puzzle around him. We felt he had talent to win football games, which is important.”
The Titans also have former sixth-round pick Rusty Smith on the development squad, after spending three seasons on the team’s 53-man roster.
Tennessee worked out free agents David Carr and John Skelton on Tuesday, but it’s still likely the club will elevate Smith from the development squad and keep Locker on the active roster. That would mean a current member of the 53-man roster would need to be released.
“We’re just going to make sure that it’s the best decision when the time comes,” Munchak said of promoting Smith to the backup position. He has only played in three games, starting one.
“If he’s not the guy, I’ll explain to you why at that time,” Munchak said. “Right now, I’m not saying that he’s not the guy. I’m saying we just haven’t made a decision yet on how we’re going to go forward.”
Munchak took exception to the hits from Wilkerson and Coples, who each appeared to have plenty of time to avoid Locker after the pass. Neither player was penalized on the play, but the league could fine one or both as early as Wednesday.
“Well, that’s up to the league to officially determine it,” Munchak said while confirming he had talked to the league about the hits on Locker. “I’d say it was unnecessary, yes — either one.
“I thought the first one, he dropped his helmet into him and loaded onto him, which you’re supposed to pull back when you’re late. He didn’t. The second one was totally unnecessary.”
In the meantime, starting Sunday, the Titans enter into a three-game home gauntlet against the undefeated Chiefs (4-0) and Seahawks (4-0), followed by a clash with the defending NFC champion 49ers (2-2).
After a bye week, Tennessee travels to St. Louis (1-3) on Nov. 3 to face former coach Jeff Fisher.