A little more than two weeks before the start of the regular season, the Tennessee Titans offense remains left to the imagintion.
Running back Chris Johnson (holdout) and wide receiver Kenny Britt (injury), the team's two most prolific playmakers, have yet to play in a preseason game, and Saturday’s contest against Chicago (7 p.m., LP Field) will be no exception.
“Our fantasy football stars,” starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “Obviously it would be great to have those guys out there but they’re not out here right now … so we just have to make the best of it.”
Britt practiced for the second straight day Thursday but was not with the starting offense. Afterward, coach Mike Munchak ruled out the third-year receiver for the game against the Bears.
Also not expected to play are running back Javon Ringer (hip), defensive end Jason Jones (knee), defensive end Derrick Morgan (knee) and tackle Troy Kropog (knee).
“I think we’re being smart with [Britt],” offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said. “He’s working his way back in slowly — he’s taking some reps, he’s running some routes. I think we know what he can do.”
Britt, a first-round draft pick in 2009, has led the ream in receiving yards each of the last two years and has averaged better than 17 yards per reception. His nine touchdown receptions last season were the most by a Tennessee receiver since Drew Bennett had 11 on 2004.
A hamstring injury cost him four games in the middle of last season and has been a factor in is limited participation this preseason.
"Rather than have him play this one and then come back and play again in five days [at New Orleans], we would rather just let him play a little longer in that fourth one," coach Mike Munchak said. "That will give him 10 days after that game to hopefully get everything behind him and be at full strength at the beginning of the season."
Johnson is the 2009 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, the NFL record holder for single-season yards from scrimmage and one of six running backs in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
He has stayed away from all team activities since the end of the lockout in an attempt to renegotiate his contract with the team. He took part in a face-to-face meeting with Titans officials and his agent on Wednesday and Thursday but little — if any — progress was toward a resolution.
Johnson's absence and the injury to Ringer, which has kept him sidelined for two weeks, have forced the Titans to rely on rookie Jamie Harper (fourth round, Clemson) as their starting running back.
“Let me tell you … [Johnson] is pretty good — I’d like to have [Johnson],” Palmer said. “… [Johnson] is a guy, we know what he can do. When things get worked out, I’m sure we’ll all be very, very happy.”
Just imagine how happy.