Titans S Hope practices for 1st time since injury

Tennessee Titans safety Chris Hope has returned to practice for

the first time since breaking his left forearm Oct. 2.

Returning to the starting spot the veteran’s held since being

signed as a free agent in 2006 may take a little longer.

Coach Mike Munchak said Wednesday that they must see how Hope

responds to practicing over the next few days. That will determine

how much Hope is able to play Sunday when the Titans (4-4) visit

Carolina (2-6), and Munchak says he expects the veteran to rotate

with Jordan Babineaux.

”I don’t expect him to be able to come out and miss, I don’t

know how much it’s been … five weeks, that he’d be able to come

in and his endurance and all those things be where we could put him

in position to play that much,” Munchak said.

Munchak said he will talk with defensive coordinator Jerry Gray

on Friday to get a feel for how ready Hope could be to face the

Panthers.

”The starting thing’s not as important,” Munchak said. ”It’s

more about can he contribute to us winning this Sunday.”

Hope went straight from practice to treatment to a meeting and

was not available to talk in the locker room. The 10-year veteran

has started 77 straight games for Tennessee, and the only time he

hasn’t played is when he’s been hurt. In 2007, he missed five games

when placed on injured reserve due to a neck injury and went to the

Pro Bowl after the 2008 season. He missed two games after

dislocating a shoulder in the opener at Jacksonville.

The Titans are paying Hope $6.5 million this season in the final

year of his contract.

They also brought Babineaux in during training camp for his

experience with Gray’s defensive approach after playing for the

coach in Seattle last season. Babineaux, playing on a one-year

deal, currently leads the Titans with 70 tackles. He also has an

interception returned for a touchdown after replacing Hope in a

31-17 win over Cleveland on Oct. 2.

As Hope returned to practice, the Titans gave six players the

day off Wednesday, including quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The

13-year veteran has a sore knee, but Munchak said it was a coaching

decision to give him the day off to rest. Hasselbeck is expected

back on the field Thursday.

Defensive end Dave Ball likely will not practice all week and is

doubtful for the game with Carolina after suffering a concussion in

the 24-17 loss to Cincinnati last week.

Receiver Nate Washington (sore hip) is expected back Friday

along with linebacker Barrett Ruud (groin), tight end Jared Cook

(knee) and fullback Ahmard Hall (back). Washington said after

practice he’s already feeling better than a day ago and will have

no problem being ready for the game.

Receiver Lavelle Hawkins, who had an open dislocation of the

index finger of his right hand, practiced.