It is not as if Mike Otto is accustomed to a lot of cheers. Even so, he could not help but recognize the silence when he went down — and briefly stayed down — during Wednesday’s practice.
“Dowell [Loggains, quarterbacks coach] said it’s the most important I’ve ever been to the organization,” he said with a chuckle.
Otto has been with the Tennessee Titans for more than six seasons and has started just twice, only once at his actual position. He has not even been in uniform for any of this season’s first seven games due to injury issues that surfaced early in training camp.
The thought — no matter how fleeting — that he might not be available for Sunday’s game against Indianapolis at LP Field (noon, CBS), however, made his teammates and coaches hold their breath momentarily. That’s because he is the one in line to play for left tackle Michael Roos, whose status is uncertain because he underwent an appendectomy Monday.
“That’s what I prepare for every week, as if I’m going to be the guy,” Otto said. “This week I may have to step up and play. I just have to be prepared to do it and to go into the week like I’m the starter.”
To say it is an unusual situation is an understatement.
Roos has played and started every game of his NFL career, a streak that currently covers all 119 games since the start of 2005. Among all current tackles, it is the second longest active streak of consecutive appearances.
His counterpart, right tackle David Stewart, has missed just four games since the start of the 2006 season.
The Titans drafted Otto in the seventh round in 2007. Oddly, part of his appeal was that he set a Purdue record with 51 career starts. He was at left tackle for every game of his college career.
“He reminds me of when we had Jason Mathews all those years,” coach Mike Munchak said. “Jason Mathews hung around, and when we needed him, he stepped in and played well for us in a lot of tough spots and a lot of playoff-run years that we had. I think Otto is kind of the same thing. … Every time he’s kind of stepped in, he’s done his job.
“He’s smart, a very smart player. He knows what his limitations are. He’s smart with technique and uses it wisely. I think we feel comfortable that he’ll come in and do a nice job.”
Mathews was with the franchise from 1998 through 2004 and primarily bided his time behind left tackle Brad Hopkins and right tackles Jon Runyan and Fred Miller. He started just 12 games for Tennessee during that time, more than half of them in his final season.
The only time Otto started at tackle was last season, when he filled in for Stewart in a 23-17 victory over Tampa Bay. He was credited with a start in 2010 when he was on the field for the first play against Washington, a game the Titans lost 19-16.
“I play this game to go out and play, be a starter and step up when I need to,” Otto said. “I’m looking forward to that opportunity and that challenge. … If I have to step up right now this is my time to do that. I’m going to be prepared to do that.”
It still is not clear whether he’ll be needed.
Roos still has not been ruled out. He was one of five Titans who were not involved in any of Wednesday’s workout but planned to meet with doctors later in the week and reevaluate his status then.
“All I can do is take it day-by-day and see how it goes between [Wednesday] and [Thursday] and then Friday and Saturday,” Roos said. “You just have to let it heal, see how fast it heals and how it’s doing. Just see how it is each day, how much pain there might be.”
Until then, everyone will think of Otto as the starter, which makes them think about him a little differently.
“He actually went down last week in practice, missed a play and no one really cared,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “He went down [Wednesday] and it was big news.
“He’s a tough guy and a smart player. Just like all of us who are in a backup role at some point, your whole job is to be ready to be called upon. If he’s called upon, which it looks like he might be, he has to be ready to go. And he will.”