In many ways, Jake Locker probably is no different than any first-year quarterback in this — or any —season.
It is how his teammates react to the first-round draft pick that is unique, according to one Tennessee Titans teammate at least.
“He’s a young guy and lot of guys can get nervous when a young guy comes into a football game,” Nate Washington said. “I think a lot of people are confident with him coming in there and playing the way he’s been playing.”
If anyone had reason to be uneasy with a rookie signal caller running the offense, it would be Washington.
The veteran wide receiver is in the midst of a career year with free agent Matt Hasselbeck doing most of the throwing for the Titans. With three games remaining, Washington already has established personal-bests for receptions (59) and receiving yards (798) in a season. His five touchdown catches are one short of his career-high.
Often a backup quarterback has a better rapport with backup wide receivers because those are the players they throw to in practice.
Washington, though, has been Locker’s preferred target just as he has been Hasselbeck’s.
“Jake has been hitting pretty much everybody in practice,” Washington said. “I think it’s just coming down to it, where in game situations and plays that have been called in the situations we’ve been faced with, he’s finding me. He’s been doing a good job.”
Locker, the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft, has appeared in four games, only two for any significant length of time. The latest was last Sunday when he replaced an injured Hasselbeck early in the second quarter and nearly rallied Tennessee to a victory over New Orleans.
Of his 23 completions, nine have been to Washington for an average of better than 20 yards. Plus, all three of his touchdown passes have gone to Washington — two of them from 40 yards out. Three of Locker’s four longest pass plays have involved Washington.
The rundown of Locker’s completions:
Nate Washington: 9-185, three touchdowns
Lavelle Hawkins: 5-93
Jared Cook: 3-35
Damian Williams: 2-62
Chris Johnson: 2-17
Craig Stevens: 1-31
Javon Ringer: 1-11
Neither Hasselbeck not Locker did any sort of throwing Wednesday at practice, and Washington was not available to catch. All three had issues with injury.
Washington (ankle) and Hasselbeck (calf) did not participate at all. Locker’s activity was limited primarily to handoffs on running plays.
Afterward, Washington said he expected to play. The Titans violated the league’s media policy and did not make Locker available to media during the interview period.
Coach Mike Munchak remained hopeful that Hasselbeck would play against the Colts but expressed little fear about the possibility of giving Locker his first career start.
“[Locker] is a leader, the players react to him in a positive way, so we got what we thought we got,” Munchak said. “He has come in in two really tough situations against two good teams. It would be great to finish that one [against New Orleans] but we didn’t.
“I think these guys have a lot of confidence in him.”
Washington certainly does.
“I see nothing but more potential,” Washington said. “… It’s seeing that this guy is going to be a quality quarterback. … I think he’ll definitely be one of the elite quarterbacks in this league.”
• Running back Javon Ringer (hand) was ruled out for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis.
That means rookie Jamie Harper will be the backup. Harper has carried seven times for 16 yards and caught one pass for 21 yards during the regular season.
“I just have to be Jamie Harper — do the little things right and try to be a difference-maker,” Harper said. “… Just don’t over-think anything. Don’t do anything out of the ordinary. Just go out there and be myself.”
• Backup safety Anthony Smith was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury.
Robert Johnson, a 2010 draft pick, was signed from the practice squad to take his place. Johnson was on the active roster all of last season but did not appear in a game.
Cornerback Terrence Wheatley, originally a second-round pick by New England in 2008, was signed to the practice squad.