Veteran lineman not the first Titan to play without practicing

Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 7:22pm

Tony Brown is the first to admit that he has not been perfect through the first three games of the season. Of course, he’s had virtually no practice time.

“I’ve been playing 35-40 plays a game – and some good plays too,” the Tennessee Titans’ defensive tackle said. “So I think that’s pretty good for a guy rehabbing.”

Brown again was a spectator for the first two workouts in preparation for Sundays game against Denver (noon, LP Field). The same was true over most of the previous three weeks as well as all of training camp and the offseason.

His rehab is connected to knee surgery in April.

Not since the later years of Steve McNair’s time with the franchise has a player seen so much action on Sunday without the benefit of time on the practice field.

“I definitely would like to practice,” he said. “At the same time, I do what I’m told to do. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened with (McNair). I just have to go out there and keep doing what I do normally.”

Who knows? He might even be able to do it better.

It was in 2003 that McNair missed every practice over a period of weeks because of the effects of an ankle injury. He still played 14 of 16 games that season, threw a career-high 24 touchdown passes and shared the league’s Most Valuable Player award with Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning.

Brown currently is second among Titans’ defensive tackles with 14 tackles (Sen’Derrick Marks has 16) and is the only interior lineman with a sack (he actually has half a sack). At his current pace, he would finish the season with 75 tackles, which would be the second-highest total of his career.

“Playing the game for seven years … there isn’t too many blocks I haven’t seen,” Brown said. “Once I watch film and see what teams are trying to do, I can make my adjustments. Then I can come off the ball and make them adjust to me.”

His value to the team is obvious in his experience (among the defensive linemen, only Jason Babin has been in the league longer) and the investment made in him (he signed a three-year, $17 million extension in April).

Thus the decision to limit the amount of wear and tear he experiences during the week.

Of course, a little practice would be worthwhile as well.

“He knows what to do, and he’s taking care of himself,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “At some point here in the near future, I expect he will be back on the practice field on a regular basis.”

Briefly

• Chris Johnson is on pace for a career-high. It’s just not in the category he wants.

The Titans’ running back leads the league with 75 rushes though the first three weeks of the season. That’s an average of 25 per game, which adds up to 400 if he maintains it throughout the course of a 16-game schedule.

At the same time last season, he had just 53 carries. As a rookie in 2008, he ran it 50 times in the first three games.

“However the gameplan works out, I feel I train hard enough in the offseason, I work hard enough at practice and in the weight room that I can handle it,” he said Thursday. “… I always want to be in the game, but whatever the coaches want to do, I’m up for that.”

Those carries have produced 301 rushing yards, which puts him on pace for 1,616. That’s well short of his goal of becoming the first player in league history to rush for 2,000 yards more than once.

“I don’t track that,” he said. “I just go in the game and try to get a victory.”

• Speaking of running backs, the Broncos added one the Titans know all too well when they traded with New England for Laurence Maroney on Sept. 14, two days after Denver’s season-opener.

Maroney faced the Titans twice in his four years with the Patriots and ran for a total of 196 yards on just 29 carries. He had a rushing touchdown in each contest as well as one receiving touchdown.

“We had a couple of bad experiences with him … and he’s still very, very explosive,” Fisher said. “(Denver’s) offense is very similar to New England. I’m sure the terminology is probably identical, so it wouldn’t be a problem.”

Maroney did not play in Week 2 but had 12 rushes for 25 yards last Sunday against Indianapolis.