Locker practices with starters, on track to play Sunday at Miami

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 6:12pm

Jake Locker insists the final say over whether or not he plays Sunday is not his.

That’s not to say that the Tennessee Titans quarterback kept his mouth shut on the issue.

“I told Munch, ‘If you’re going to consider letting me play at some point I need you to consider it being myself’ so that I don’t have to think about ‘don’t do this’ or ‘don’t do that,’ ” he said. “If I’m going to be able to play, I’m going to go out and play the way I know how and the way I always have played.”

Coach Mike Munchak indicated that ultimate decision most likely would come Friday, two days before the Titans (3-6) play the Miami Dolphins (4-4) at Sun Life Stadium (noon, CBS).

Locker worked with the starting offense on Wednesday for the first time since Sept. 30, when he sustained an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He was cleared to return to practice three weeks ago and worked with the scout team since that time. Earlier this week he was cleared for full contact.

The plan is for him to practice with the starting offense again Thursday. After that, coaches and medical staff will consult and make the final determination, but barring a significant setback the expectation is he will be the starter against the Dolphins, who rank last in the AFC in average passing yards allowed per game.

“It’s just a matter now of getting through practice and seeing how it goes for him,” Munchak said. “Physically, I think, he’s as healthy as he’s going to be until he starts playing. He had a good day of practice and we’ll see how it goes the next couple days.

“… We’re doing a lot of different drills with him, different things with him to see how the soreness does, how he holds up. We’ll see how he progresses.”

Locker was credited with “full participation” on the official injury report.

“[I felt] good,” he said. “I think Munch has done a great job of allowing me to kind of work back in over the last couple weeks, to get familiar doing some scout team stuff. So it wasn’t my first time taking live team reps.”

Locker was a four-year starter in college but missed the final eight games of his sophomore season with a broken thumb. He came back and had his best statistical season as a junior.

To return in the middle of a season having missed five full games and most of a sixth presents a different sort of challenge.

“Just standing around you kind of get out of the groove, but he’s been working really hard,” said Matt Hasselbeck, who has started the last five games. “He’s been working hard on the side. He’s been doing conditioning. He’s been doing drills and understanding the challenges that come with missing time.

“… If he’s cleared, which I believe he is or will be, he should have no issues.”

The Titans currently are 17th in the league in passing offense but their average of 6.6 yards per attempt is 25th. Locker’s average before he was hurt was 7.37 yards per attempt. Hasselbeck has averaged 6.19 since.

Plus, Locker has 106 pass attempts with just three sacks — an average of one sack for every 35.3 throws. Hasselbeck has 220 pass attempts and 14 sacks — one every 15.7.

The ability to run was one of the factors that led coaches to pick Locker as the starter during the preseason and will be a part of his game once he is back in there.

“My goal is to go out and put our team in the best situation to win,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to try to do when I get the opportunity to get back out there whenever that is and whatever way that is, whether it’s with an original play or when a play breaks down just trying to allow guys to work downfield a little longer.

“… I’m excited about the opportunity to get back in and do some more work. It’s been feeling good. That decision, at the end of the day, is not with me.”