By Teresa M. Walker/The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Rookie Jake Locker has a head start on veteran Matt Hasselbeck with the Tennessee Titans, and the quarterback plans to make the best of his advantage.
Hasselbeck has signed his three-year deal. But veterans such as Hasselbeck are stuck watching until Thursday under the new labor deal. That’s giving extra work to Locker, Rusty Smith and Brett Ratliff as the Titans hit the field for the first time Saturday.
“I respect Matt,” Locker said of Hasselbeck. “He’s had a great career and been very successful, but I think I’d be doing him a disservice as well if I’m not pushing him to get him better. I’m going to prepare and do everything I can to give myself an opportunity to play.”
Hasselbeck knows waiting won’t be easy. He does have a playbook to study, names of his new teammates and coaches to learn while working out on his own since he can’t exercise or lift weights on the Titans’ property until Thursday. With other veterans stuck in the same waiting game, Hasselbeck doesn’t see a problem being ready for the season opener Sept. 11 at Jacksonville.
“A lot of people are in the same boat, so I do my best not to worry about things that are outside of my control, and that’s certainly not something I can control,” Hasselbeck said. “What I can control is how I handle these six weeks. That’s where my focus is going to be. … I’m just going to get to work.”
The Titans have revamped their quarterback situation almost completely under new coach Mike Munchak in a bid to rebound from a 6-10 season in which they bounced back and forth between quarterbacks. The Titans finished 2010 ranked 25th in the NFL in passing, averaging 194.2 yards per game.
Gone are Vince Young, the No. 3 pick overall in 2006 released Thursday, along with veteran Kerry Collins who retired July 7. The Titans already had lined up Locker by taking him eighth overall in April, and he was the first player into the Titans’ headquarters Tuesday when the lockout was lifted.
The Titans agreed to terms with Hasselbeck, a 13-year veteran, on Wednesday morning, getting a quarterback to mentor Locker and compete for the starting job.
Hasselbeck and Locker know each other a bit from their time at the University of Washington, where the former Seahawks quarterback worked out during the lockout. He’s ready to both teach and earn the starting job.
“I think they go hand in hand,” Hasselbeck said. “The best way to teach somebody is to try to do your job with excellence each and every day, and I’m sure there’s things I’ll learn from him. I’m just going to try to be the best that I can be and really buy into what this coaching staff is wanting everyone to do.”
Locker started 40 games for the Washington Huskies, throwing for 7,639 yards with 53 touchdowns while running for 1,939 yards and 29 touchdowns. Hasselbeck said he’s fully recovered from the broken wrist that limited him to 14 games last year and led to a hip injury. Hasselbeck still threw for 3,001 yards with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Hasselbeck said he was poked and prodded and X-rayed closely Friday and is ready to go. He also sees an immediate trust and respect between him and Locker.
“It’s not like we’re best friends from high school or something. …” Hasselbeck said. “We have a lot of the same mutual friends. I certainly respect who he is and what he’s all about and his professionalism. I just think there’s a mutual respect there. He’s a great kid. He’s easy to get along with. He’s got all those intangibles that you’re dying to have out of players. He’s got those.”
Notes: Saturday’s first practice marked the first session missed by running back Chris Johnson in his holdout for a new contract. … Tight end Daniel Graham is scheduled to visit the Titans in Nashville from Saturday night through Sunday night. … The Titans’ first practice Saturday was closed to the public, with Sunday night’s session the first chance for fans to watch.