NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak usually considers the opening days of training camp his favorite in football yet already there are issues to face.
Two of the team’s top receivers, Kenny Britt and rookie Kendall Wright, are unavailable. And the starting quarterback job figures to be hotly contested with incumbent Matt Hasselbeck trying to fend off last year’s first-round pick, Jake Locker.
Still, Munchak is optimistic that the team can improve upon last year’s 9-7 record because there’s no lockout to deal with this summer.
“Last year was tough because even scheduling practice, we were not sure how much time we were going to need scheduling periods,” said Munchak, who was a first-year head coach last season. “We spent a lot of time last year on real, real basic stuff, because our players and coaches had never even met.
“We feel we’re light years ahead of where we were last year on our feel for the team and what we have, where the competition is and how hard we can push them.”
The battle at quarterback will be one of the focal points of camp and preseason. The decision may come down to whether Locker is ready to take the reins as the quarterback of the future.
“I think the first thing is if he’s ready,” Munchak said. “Does he give us the best chance to make the playoffs this year, to win our division? That’s what we’re trying to get a feel for. We’re not going to put someone out there that we feel is going to struggle at any position, not just the quarterback.”
Hasselbeck came to the Titans last year from Seattle and enjoyed his best season since 2007. He completed 319 of 518 passes for 3,571 yards, with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He tweaked his regimen a little in the offseason at age 36 in hopes of holding on to the starting job.
“I played it more safe and I didn’t really travel,” Hasselbeck said. “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.”
Several key targets won’t be around — at least at the start of camp.
Britt’s bad knees — three procedures since he tore his right ACL and MCL in September — landed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the start of camp. And last week’s arrest for driving under the influence at an army post in Fort Campbell, Ky., puts him in danger of being suspended by the league.
Britt latest arrest is his eighth run-in with the law since the Titans drafted him in the first round in 2009.
Munchak said the Titans and NFL must gather all the facts before any decisions are made. He said the league has a policy in place that addresses player conduct.
“We talked with Kenny and he is aware that we are very disappointed in his involvement in this recent situation,” Munchak said. “We have to get the whole story, and find out exactly what happened, not just Kenny’s version or someone else’s version.”
He said to make a knee-jerk decision on Britt would be wrong.
Wright remains unsigned due to problems over guaranteed money and other contract issues. He is one of three first-round picks yet to sign.