The Tennessee Titans’ running back competition might not be over, but there is a clear leader in the mind of running backs coach Sherman Smith.
Smith appears ready to anoint veteran Chris Brown as his starter, especially in light of LenDale White’s continued absence from practice because of knee and ankle injuries.
“I think it’s starting to clear itself out. We’ve had two preseason games, and LenDale hasn’t played in one of them,” Smith said. “That kind of puts him in a position where you can’t say you’re competing for a starting job if you’re not practicing and not playing.
“I think it’s Chris Brown. This guy is showing that he’s been consistent. The rookie [Chris Henry] is still learning, and the other two guys, Quinton [Ganther] and Dontrell [Moore], are doing a good job when they get opportunities to play.”
Brown had 67 yards on 10 carries running against the second team against the New England Patriots, but Smith was nonetheless impressed.
“If he didn’t run well, we’d be saying, ‘You didn’t run well against the twos,’” Smith said. “So he ran well. The line blocked well. He’s a seasoned veteran; he’s healthy; he’s running fast, and I think he’d do the same thing against the one unit, if he had the opportunity.”
Smith said White, who figured to be the favorite coming in, now must play catch-up, something that’s difficult to do with just two days of training camp and two preseason games remaining.
“I don’t know if he can catch up, because you can’t turn back the clock. You can’t turn back the hands of time,” Smith said. “So all he can do is try to make up for the time. I don’t know.”
Smith questioned White’s conditioning and indicated that he believes that has been a factor in this preseason. White’s weight was near 260 pounds, and though he is now around 240, his inactivity has not helped.
“I think he needs to get into shape. I thought when he came into camp he wasn’t in great shape, so now the fact that he’s not working out doesn’t mean he’s gotten in better shape,” Smith said. “There’s a conditioning level you have to have and I’m not sure he’s there yet, plus he’s not practicing. You just have to hope he gets well and gets out there and he practices. But I can only worry about the guys that are out there on the field. I can’t worry about him if he’s not out there.”
White said he knew he needed to get back on the field, but believed he could still earn the job.
“I have every confidence in the world that I can be the guy and that I will be the guy, but you’ve got to be out there,” White told The City Paper/ in Monday’s edition. You’ve got to be out there with your teammates, and I’m looking forward to getting out there this week sometime.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher was non-committal when asked if White needed to practice today in order to play Friday at Buffalo and if he had fallen behind in the running back battle.
“What’s most important is to get him back on the practice field and playing,” Fisher said.
As for Brown, who did not re-sign with the team until June, he said he hopes a decision on who starts will come in the next few days, but believes he has done what he needs to do to earn the job.
“I want to go out there and start,” Brown said. “I want to go out there and play with the first team and take the first rep and just see how things are going.
“I feel like I’ve performed pretty well. I feel like I went out there and made my reads pretty well. I saw the cuts and I ran hard. I’m stating my case right now.”