Javon Ringer insists he is not playing hurt.
Still, one has to wonder each time he thrusts forward his right hand so that it resembles either a rock, a piece of paper of a pair of scissors if he is not somewhat limited. That hand, after all, has been held together by a bunch of hardware ever since last December.
“I have a plate and seven small, little screws,” he said. “That didn’t take long to heal at all. I was pretty happy about that.”
Tennessee Titans running backs routinely have passed the time during this month’s organized team activities (OTAs) with games of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Their affection for a playground game makes a certain amount of sense given that the realities of professional football don’t seem be a factor for them as they are for much of their teammates.
With only a three-day minicamp (Tuesday through Thursday) remaining in the offseason training program and more than a month before the start of training camp, the roles of the running backs look pretty well defined.
As he enters his fourth professional season, for example, Ringer’s job now is no different than it has been either of the previous two years. He is the backup to Chris Johnson, who is a force to be reckoned with in Rock, Paper, Scissors, who must be content to get his carries when he can. Behind them is second-year pro Jamie Harper, a change of pace from the other two in terms of size and running style.
“You can’t get frustrated with things,” Ringer said. “I came to a team where the guy was already set – C.J. has been able to do amazing things. So I just have to continue to play my role.”
The difference for Ringer this year, though, is that he is healthy.
A back injury limited him to just three carries during the 2011 preseason, which was a time when he should have gotten a lot of work. Johnson, after all, missed all four of those games in a contract dispute. Ringer was held out of the 2011 season-opener at Jacksonville as well.
He’s also battled through a knee injury.
“You kind of want him to stay healthy, if possible,” coach Mike Munchak said. “Really for us the past two years it has been tough because he had the back, he had the knee. We know what we have there. He is a guy that we know what he can do. I think we all feel really good about him.
“When he has to play, he has played well.”
Ringer set career-highs with 59 rushes and 28 receptions last season, which ultimately was shortened by an injury. On Dec. 11 against New Orleans, he broke the hand on his only touch of the contest – an 11-yard pass reception.
He was inactive the following week and placed on injured reserve for the final two contests.
“I hit the ground,” he said. “When I got tackled I tried to catch myself and I ended up punching the ground really hard and I broke it.’
With the installation of the hardware and a brief period of rehabilitation, he said he recovered complete use of the hand.
“I was able to get my range of motion back and just kind of carried around one of those little balls that you squeeze to get my grip back,” he said. “… I started feeling really good and I was able to keep it going until I broke my hand.
“Thank God it was nothing too serious like a torn ligament in my knee or anything like that.”