Titans lose another starter for season to injury

Tennessee’s offensive line is what coach Mike Munchak calls a

”work in progress” now that right tackle David Stewart is the

third starter lost to injury.

Center Eugene Amano tore his right triceps in August, and right

guard Leroy Harris’ season ended in November with a right knee

injury. Then Stewart broke his right leg on the team’s third

offensive play in their 24-10 loss to Houston on Sunday.

And those aren’t even all the injuries on the line.

Munchak said Monday they were waiting for test results on left

guard Steve Hutchinson’s right knee, but will need to add more

offensive linemen. When left tackle Michael Roos hurt his knee and

came out for a play, Hutchinson returned with the rest of the line

scrambled as the Titans (4-8) lost their second straight and fourth

in five games.

”It seems like this is one of those years where what can go

wrong is going wrong, and we’re getting challenged in a lot of

different ways,” Munchak said.

When Roos hurt his knee with 9:13 left in the third quarter that

left the Titans with limited options. Mike Otto, who had replaced

Stewart, moved to left tackle. Center Fernando Velasco, who hadn’t

played tackle since high school, moved to right tackle, with

Hutchinson coming back at left guard and Kevin Matthews sliding to

center.

”It seemed like I was the only one standing and everybody else

just kind of fell out,” right guard Deuce Lutui said. ”At the

time, you just kind of wonder who’s coming in and if I even have to

make a move.”

With Stewart out, the Texans batted down even more passes. All

the injuries led to Jake Locker being sacked six times and hit a

total of eight times, leading him to lose two fumbles and three

interceptions. Locker had been sacked only five times in his

previous six starts.

”You never want to see your quarterback take a beating like

that,” Velasco said. ”That’s our job as offensive linemen. I know

it comes with running backs and tight ends and all, but as an

offensive line, that’s what we take to heart not to let our

quarterback get hit like that and to protect our quarterback. …

We didn’t do a very good job at it.”

Both Munchak and Velasco took issue with a hit Velasco took from

Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith on the Titans’ final

offensive play, their sixth and final turnover. Officials flagged

Smith for a personal foul, and Locker took up for his lineman by

confronting Smith. Velasco called it ”very, very cheap shot” and

said that he hopes the NFL fines Smith.

Munchak, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, didn’t mince

words.

”Totally unnecessary. Uncalled for. No place in the game for

it. All those things,” he said. ”They threw the flag. Obviously

they saw it. I’m sure there’ll be some consequences to that. That’s

just totally out of line.”

Now the Titans (4-8), who visit Indianapolis (8-4) on Sunday,

have to wait and see if Hutchinson can play before figuring out who

starts on the offensive line. Munchak said the veteran might play

or could miss a game or two. They also have to correct issues that

included at least six dropped passes.

The Titans are another loss away from their second losing season

in three years. Munchak led them to a 9-7 record in his first year,

and finishing this stretch strong may be a bigger challenge than

starting cold as a head coach coming off a lockout, as he did in

2011.

He said the best compliments he got as a player came in seasons

with only a handful of wins. Munchak wants to finish strong and

insists nobody will be quitting with future jobs on the line.

”You hope if you have to go through a season like this like

we’re going right now, you hope that you can look back and say

there was some good that came out of this. For us right now all you

can look at, you’ve got four weeks left. The goal is to be a lot

better in four weeks than you are right now. I mean that’s all you

can work on. We can’t take back the past,” Munchak said.

”The question is again can we win all four? We’ll see.”

NOTES: Munchak also said safety Robert Johnson may be done for

the season after tearing ligaments in his foot. … DE Kamerion

Wimbley was having tests after hurting a big toe late against

Houston. … WR Damian Williams hurt a hamstring when he tried to

pull up and avoid hitting a stadium worker on the sideline late in

the first half.

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and

http://twitter.com/AP-NFL