Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth makes a difference in the Tennessee Titans’ lineup.
That was evident when Haynesworth missed three straight games with a right hamstring injury, and the Titans lost all three games, putting their playoff hopes in peril.
Haynesworth has played in the past four games for the Titans in varying degrees without practicing, but on Thursday practiced for the first time since Nov. 30, something he says should help him as he readies for the Titans’ make-or-break game Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts.
“I’m still knocking some of the rust off. I’m going to definitely be out there [Friday], and it’ll help. Hopefully, by Sunday I can be close to what I was before I left the field,” Haynesworth said.
Haynesworth said he needs to practice and that the formula of not practicing then delivering on Sunday, something that worked so well for former Titans quarterback Steve McNair in years past, is not for him.
“It makes a lot [of difference],” Haynesworth said. “It’s really the concentration. When you don’t practice, you really have to concentrate to focus on things that you normally don’t have do. And when you practice, all those things are in order. You don’t have to really worry about your get-off and your hands. You just go out there and play. But without practice, you have to worry about that stuff.”
HONORED: Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch has been named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack performance in the Titans’ 10-6 victory over the New York Jets last Sunday.
Vanden Bosch had 12 total tackles, including eight solo stops in the game.
The defensive end, heading to his second Pro Bowl at season’s end, now has 12 sacks for the season and ranks third in the AFC. He also has 113 total tackles and 22 quarterback pressures.
It is Vanden Bosch’s first time to receive the weekly award.
INJURIES: In addition to Haynesworth returning to practice, a number of other Titans players returned to practice Thursday as well. Linebacker David Thornton (knee) and running back LenDale White (knee) were both back, as well as guard Benji Olson, who rested on Wednesday.
Among the Titans who did not practice, center Kevin Mawae continues to be plagued by a calf injury that kept him out of last Sunday’s game with the Jets. Mawae was not on the practice field during Thursday’s work.
Nick Harper (groin), Gilbert Gardner (calf) and Antwan Odom (ankle) were also out again on Thursday.
COLTS INJURIES: The Colts, who are expected to rest a number of their starters in Sunday night’s game, got three of the 11 players listed on the injury report back on the practice field Thursday.
The most notable of that group is wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who has missed the past nine games with a knee injury. Colts coach Tony Dungy said Wednesday his team hoped to get Harrison some work this week with the playoffs upcoming.
Other Colts to practice Thursday who sat out Wednesday included defensive back Antione Bethea (knee), running back Luke Lawton (illness) and defensive end Josh Thomas (illness).
In all, Indianapolis has 15 players on its injury report Thursday after having 11 on Wednesday.
FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE: Titans tight end Ben Hartsock knows about how the Colts handle matters when they have their playoff position already secured. He played there in 2004 and 2005 before the Titans claimed him off waivers during the 2006 season.
“In 2004 and 2005 when I played up there, they had already locked up their playoff position and they sat the guys pretty quick as I remember, because I jokingly said I actually got in and played some,” Hartsock said.
Hartsock said Colts backup Jim Sorgi is capable of running the offense well, despite only limited activity behind Peyton Manning, who is expected to play sparingly.
“They sat Manning pretty quickly [in the past], and let Sorgi go in. Sorgi is no slouch as a quarterback. He knows what he does and does it very well,” Hartsock said.