NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans quarterback Jake Locker is taking his return to the football field one step at a time — literally and figuratively.
Locker had surgery on his right foot last November after suffering a Lisfranc injury against the Jaguars, prompting him to miss the last seven games of the season. And recently, Locker had another operation on his foot.
"I had the surgery to take out the plate and a few screws Monday (March) 17th," said Locker, via text. "Foot is healing great, on a regular rehab schedule now."
Locker has also shed his walking boot as the rehabilitation process enters a new phase. But it is uncertain just how quickly the fourth-year quarterback and No. 8 overall 2011 draft pick will start implementing a new offense under first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt — at least on the field.
Under NFL rules, teams that have a new head coach, like the Titans, can begin offseason workouts on April 7. The other clubs can start on April 21. Locker hopes to be on the field for the June Organized Team Activity sessions.
"Working towards getting back on the field as soon as possible," said Locker, who also missed five starts in 2012, his first season as Titans starting quarterback, because of a shoulder injury that required off-season surgery.
During the current free-agency period, the Titans signed veteran backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and released another veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started nine games last year for the injured Locker.
Whitehurst was Philip Rivers’ backup in San Diego last season, coinciding with Whisenhunt’s stay as Chargers offensive coordinator.
Whitehurst’s duties will include assisting Locker and other offensive players in learning the new offense.
"Timeline really depends on how the foot responds during the rehab," Locker said.
Last season, Locker led the Titans to a 3-1 start before suffering a non-throwing shoulder injury against the Jets (Week 4). He missed two games and suffered the season-ending foot injury in his third game back.
A Lisfranc injury occurs when bones are broken and/or ligaments are damaged in the mid-foot area.
The Titans bolstered their defense with the signing of 10-year linebacker Shaun Phillips. After nine years with the Chargers as an outside linebacker, he played defensive end last season and helped the Broncos make the Super Bowl with a team-high 10 sacks.
Phillips is expected to play outside linebacker in the Titans’ new "hybrid" defense that is expected to have characteristics of 4-3 and 3-4 alignments. With 79 1/2 career sacks, he is expected to help boost a Tennessee pass rush that had 36 sacks last season, tied for 21st in the league.
"I originally played this hybrid outside linebacker my whole career," said Phillips, a 2010 Pro Bowl selection whos second all-time for the Chargers in sacks (69.5). "… I am back to my natural position.
"I feel like I can make a lot more plays when I stand up and I can see everything and I can play linebacker as opposed to defensive end. What I played last year, it was just rush the quarterback. I didn’t get a chance to use my brain. It was just more brawn than brain."
Phillips (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) will be reunited with linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who signed with the Titans after spending the past six seasons with the Broncos. Phillips inked a two-year deal worth up to $6 million.
"Shaun is an athletic pass rusher, who has been a productive player his entire career," said Titans general manager Ruston Webster. "His flexibility is an asset as well, being raised as a 3-4 linebacker and having success as a 4-3 end last year. He will add to our mix of pass rushers and improves that group from a production and experience standpoint."