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
”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
”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
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.
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