Despite signing veteran John Skelton, the Titans back-up quarterback issues are far from resolved.
By GREG POGUE FS Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There aren't many times during an NFL season where a team discusses the backup to its emergency quarterback.
Wouldn't that, in essence, make that player the emergency quarterback to the emergency quarterback? Sounds convoluted, but it's where the Titans (4-6) are heading into Sunday's game at Oakland (4-6), even with the signing of veteran quarterback John Skelton on Monday.
With starter Jake Locker lost for the season with a foot injury suffered in the loss to Jacksonville a week ago Sunday, backup Ryan Fitzpatrick was ordained the No. 1 for the final seven games. Fourth-year Titans quarterback Rusty Smith this season has bounced from practice squad to roster to waiver wire to roster and now to being the backup.
But with Fitzpatrick and Smith again expected to be the team's only activated quarterbacks Sunday against the Raiders, having the emergency quarterback playing is only two snaps away, should both quarterbacks get injured.
Thing is, receiver Damian Williams, who was forced into return duties upon the release of Darius Reynaud, is the team's emergency quarterback. But he could be out again Sunday at Oakland after missing the last game with a hip injury.
And that leaves backup running back Shonn Greene as the backup to the emergency quarterback. But with the signing of Skelton, he had apparently been demoted.
"Shonn was a little upset that we had lost confidence in him (at quarterback)," Titans coach Mike Munchak said with tongue planted firmly in cheek. "But we still need a third quarterback on game day. He's still alive there."
Munchak figures Skelton will not be far enough along in absorbing the offense to take an active spot for the game Sunday, but he did say it was nice to have three healthy quarterbacks on the roster.
"If we go in with healthy quarterbacks -- which our quarterbacks are healthy -- that it is a rarity," said Munchak, who will see Locker miss 14 of 32 starts over two seasons because of injuries. Locker was scheduled to have surgery today on his Lisfranc injury in Charlotte, N.C.
"Anything's possible that we'd have to worry about the third guy," he added, "but at least we have one on the team now that can be ready the following Sunday, if need be."
And that would be Skelton, who played in 20 games and started 17 the past three seasons for the Cardinals. He spent a brief time earlier this year on the 49ers' roster.
"I want to just learn as much as I can," Skelton said about the approach this week with his new team. " ... Like every team in the NFL, it's a little bit different (offense). You kind of take little subtleties that you know and kind of work with those and go forward."
Munchak said Smith would remain the No. 2, even when Skelton is up to speed enough to be activated, which could come a week from Sunday at Indianapolis.
"We thought we had a need just because of the way quarterbacks get hurt like ours have," Munchak said of signing Skelton. "We needed to have another quarterback here. We felt if something happened to (Fitzpatrick), we had Rusty (Smith), which we're fine with. But we didn't have anyone else into our system.
"We didn't want to have the panic if something did happen Sunday (against Oakland) that we have to find another quarterback that could come in on Monday and learn our system in case he has to play the following Sunday because Rusty got hurt."
LB Fokou return expected
Even though former two-year starter Colin McCarthy filled in solidly the past four games, Munchak said he will be glad to get middle linebacker Moise Fokou back into action against the Raiders. Fokou is practicing again this week after injuring a knee against Seattle on Oct. 13.
"There's no doubt we have," Munchak said of the defense missing Fokou, who was second on the team in tackles before getting hurt and had led the team twice in tackles the first six games. "I think he's come in and really (taken) charge of that defense. I think we were playing at a high level.
" ... He was playing well. The players were responding to him. You're hoping he can come right back in and we can pick up where we left off with him."
Munchak indicated that both Fokou and McCarthy could share snaps come Sunday as Fokou is eased back into the lineup.
"That could be something with easing him back in, at least taking advantage of his leadership and how he's played for us, his communication skills," Munchak said. "That would be the option of figuring out where he's at and see, 'OK, how do we fit this together for Sunday?'"
In four starts, McCarthy led the team in tackles once -- a career-best 14 in the win at St. Louis on Nov. 3 -- and shared the lead twice. He had a team-high 40 tackles the past four games.
Former LB Chamberlin dies
Former Titans linebacker Frank Chamberlin, who played for the team for three seasons from 2000-02, died Sunday following a battle with brain cancer. He was 35.
"That was a shocker to hear about that," said Munchak, an assistant coach for the Titans during Chamberlin's tenure with the team. "I don't think any of us knew he was in that condition. He had brain surgery, I guess, recently in the past year and everything."
After being selected in the fifth round of the 2000 draft out of Boston College, Chamberlin played in 43 games for the Titans over three seasons. He also played for Cincinnati in 2003 and Houston in 2005 and played in a total of 57 NFL games.
A native of Mahwah, N.J., Chamberlin was diagnosed with brain cancer last January and underwent surgery two weeks later to remove a portion of a brain tumor. He was currently vice president of Equity Trading at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, a financial services firm in New York City.
He is survived by wife Lisa and three young daughters: Leah, Brooke and Micaela.
"Prayers and thoughts go out to his family," Munchak said. "That was awful to hear that."
Washington feeds families
Titans wide receiver Nate Washington founded his charitable 85th Foundation in 2008 with a mission statement that stated, "Impacting the community, by inspiring the youth."
On Tuesday, Washington and some teammates will conduct The Annual 85th Foundation Turkey Giveaway by providing 125 Nashville-area families with turkeys at the Northwest YMCA starting at 7 p.m.
"Nashville is where I live and work," said Washington, a nine-year veteran in his fifth season with the Titans. "This community deserves my best not only on the field, but off the field as well. Our annual turkey giveaway provides an opportunity to do just that. I hope we can make a difference for as many families as possible this holiday season."
The 85th Foundation, a non-profit organization, annually "provides educational workshops, football clinics and basic human need giveaways that impact, inspire, and improve the quality of life in various communities."
Said Washington, "As a member of the Nashville community, I strongly feel that I have a responsibility to give back and improve the circumstances of those who need a little help in their strive for success."