LenDale White has gone from being a sidekick to being on the sidelines.
And though he has handled the situation well, White can't hide the fact that he would like his chance to once again be a valuable contributor either in Tennessee or, if need be, somewhere else.
No longer Smash and Dash, the Titans’ offense has become centered around Chris Johnson’s pursuit of 2,000 yards, leaving White relegated to spot duty that sometimes means only two or three carries a game.
For a player that rushed for 1,110 yards in 2007, then scored 15 touchdowns last year, such a limited role (63 carries, 221 yards) has been hard to swallow, though he doesn’t begrudge his friend Johnson, who is making the most of the starring role by leading the NFL in rushing with 1,596 yards.
“I want to find my groove. I want 25 carries in a ballgame. I want to be out there, but C.J. is doing an unbelievable job,” White said. “When you’ve got a guy that is putting up MVP type numbers and statistics, and he’s coming out week after week and showing it, it’s hard to sit back and sit on the bench. But when you’ve got a guy like that, you’ve got to run with it. As long as he’s on fire, you keep going to the guy.”
For White, this off-season could be particularly interesting. First off, if a collective bargaining agreement somehow gets done, he would become an unrestricted free agent.
More likely, a deal doesn’t come to fruition, and White will have to settle for being a restricted free agent. He recently hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent as he gets ready to explore free agency for the first time in his career.
White says he is simply looking for the chance to be a featured back again, the way he was in 2007 in Tennessee.
“I want to be the best I can be. No disrespect to the Titans organization at all. Let’s get this clear. No disrespect to no Titans, but if I get a chance to be the guy somewhere else, and that’s where they want me, I’m gonna go,” White said. “I would hope that any football player in here would go. I don’t want to sit here and play backup to no guy. I refuse. I don’t want to.”
If White becomes a restricted free agent, he could have value not only to another team, but to the Titans, who could recoup the second-round pick traded last April, if they don’t match a tender offer for him.
White just wants to chance for some playing time – be it back in a tandem with Johnson in Tennessee or elsewhere.
“Whatever I’ve got to do to bust my tail to get on the field, that’s what I’m gonna keep doing. In my lifetime, I’ve never been a guy that’s signed up to be a second-tier guy. I never did that,” White said. “Hopefully, I can stay here and we can find a way to let me and C.J. work and get on the field together. We’ve done it in the past and we’re able to do it, and we were very successful when we did do it.”
Tight end Jared Cook said he felt much better on Wednesday after suffering a concussion in Sunday’s game.
Tests indicated that Cook has improved, but the rookie tight end still has to visit with a neutral outside physician on Thursday to determine his status.
The NFL has recently altered its rules regarding concussions and head injuries, largely taking the decision out of the hands of team physicians alone.
“I’m not sure yet [when I’ll be cleared, because they have all these new rules and everything they have to follow. We’ll just have to wait and see,” Cook said.
Receiver Justin Gage practice fully on Wednesday and has been cleared to return after missing four games with a back injury. Gage will likely work back into the lineup, but probably not at the expense of rookie Kenny Britt, who leads the team in receiving yards with 567 on 36 receptions.
Star running back Chris Johnson was held out of Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury, but is still expected to continue his pursuit of 2,000 yards.
Others who did not practice include fullback Ahmard Hall (ankle), linebacker Colin Allred (hamstring) and defensive tackle Jason Jones, whose season is over after shoulder surgery.
Receiver Nate Washington (ankle) was limited while defensive linemen Tony Brown and Kyle Vanden Bosch were rested. QB Vince Young practiced fully on his sore knee.