Locker out for the season, future with Titans unclear
With another injury to QB Jake Locker, the Titans are left to wonder about his future with the team.
By GREG POGUE FS Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. –- What the body language suggested Sunday following the
Titans' embarrassing home loss to previously winless Jacksonville was later realized and announced Monday.
Indeed, Titans quarterback
Jake Locker has been lost for the remainder of the season. He suffered a foot injury while running an option play in the second quarter of the 29-27 defeat.
Locker will not only not return Thursday for the Titans (4-5) and their key home encounter against AFC South rival Indianapolis (6-3) and the remainder of the season, but his long-term status with the team is now in doubt for the oft-injured quarterback.
"It's very disappointing," Titans coach Mike Munchak said today of having to sit once again because of injury the player deemed to be the franchise quarterback when he was drafted No. 8 overall in 2011.
Locker had already missed two previous games -- losses to visiting Kansas City and on the road at Seattle -- this season while nursing hip and knee injuries suffered in the second half of a win over the New York Jets on Sept. 29.
The University of Washington product had guided the Titans to a promising 3-1 start, but four losses in their last five games -- including Sunday's debacle against Jacksonville, which snapped a 13-game losing streak -- have the team searching for answers about their quarterback situation, both immediately and long term.
"It's very disappointing," Munchak said. "It's hard on the team. Like we talked about when we were 3-1, we thought (Locker) was really coming into his own, and the team was kind of coming together, becoming his.
"And then the injury, like we all know, we kind of struggled at that point, more so than we thought we would on offense especially."
Locker was reportedly diagnosed with a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. The injury affects a ligament in the middle of the foot that impacts stability. Surgery was not confirmed, but appears probable.
For the season, Locker completed 111-of-183 passes for 1,256 yards, eight touchdowns, four interceptions and an 86.7 rating. He also rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
"Losing him now is a huge blow," Munchak said. "Watch any team that loses their quarterback, it's a big effect on the team."
Last season after earning the starting nod out of training camp over veteran Matt Hasselbeck, Locker missed five games with a separated shoulder suffered while making a tackle on an interception return.
"It's tough," Locker said Sunday night following the game while on crutches and wearing a walking boot on his right foot. He was not made available to the media Monday.
"You want to be out there," he added. "You want to be on the football field with your teammates. That's the reality of this game.
"A lot of times your character is tested through adversity, and it's up to you to deal with it in the most positive way for yourself and your football team."
Not yet healed 100 percent from the previous injuries and still wearing a knee brace, Locker was injured while running an option play to the right side with running back Chris Johnson flanking the play to his right. Locker did not pitch the ball, but rather was apparently injured while being tackled by Jaguars linebacker Russell Allen.
"I don't really know," Locker said of how he was injured. "I don't know exactly how it happened. Just when I got up, I could feel it."
Locker didn't exit the game immediately, but fumbled the next play while trying to hand the ball to Johnson on a running play. That was Locker's last play of the season.
"It's not C.J.'s fault," Locker said of the fumble where he tried to play through the injury. "I wasn't able to get it to him. I just got to the point where I was tired of having to come off the field because I was hurt.
"I wanted to give it a chance. I just wasn't able to push off like I wanted to."
Nine-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, the former Buffalo Bills starter who struggled in losses to the Chiefs and Seahawks while subbing for Locker, takes over the quarterback chores the remainder of the season. Fourth-year Titans reserve quarterback Rusty Smith is expected to be elevated again from the practice squad to be the backup, like he was during Locker's absence.
On Sunday, Fitzpatrick played well in the second half against the Jaguars and nearly rallied the team for a victory before fumbling the ball for a Jaguars touchdown late in the game. He completed 22-of-33 passes for 264 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Overall in four games this season, Fitzpatrick has completed 63-of-111 passes for 790 yards, four touchdowns, four interceptions and a 76.0 rating. He has also fumbled five times.
"I think there's so much disappointment right now in the locker room with the loss and everything," Fitzpatrick said. "Sometimes, I think the best thing is to get out there and play again."
As Locker recovers again and enters the fourth year of his contract in 2014, the Titans are put in a situation of assessing the position long term. That is especially enhanced against the backdrop of the upcoming quarterback draft class being considered deep and talented.
"He's your quarterback," Munchak said of Locker, who played limitedly two seasons ago as a rookie behind Hasselbeck. "He's the guy we thought would be here for a long time. And that still may work out.
"It's just right now, it's a disappointing last year and this year in that he wasn't able to finish the season and find out what kind of team we have and what time of team we can become on offense, especially."
Munchak related that Locker was taking the most-recent injury hard.
"It's hard for time," Munchak said. "I know how depressed he is. I know how hard this hurt him and our team."