Harper ensures Titans won't run out of options near goal line

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 11:25pm

Jamie Harper’s one-yard touchdown run last Thursday against Pittsburgh was not necessarily memorable.

It won’t go down as one of the most meaningful in franchise history or even his own career, which is just in its second season. The commemorative ball he will receive from the team’s equipment staff will go to his home with other keepsakes from his playing days.

“Everybody has like a pride-and-joy room, a room of all their accomplishments and it will go up in there,” Harper said. “I have things from high school on up — records I set, jerseys from high school, college, even little league ball. At Clemson, if you win player of the game you get a banner. I have a lot of those up there. I have my first touchdown in the preseason ever, and my first touchdown in the regular season ever, against Jacksonville.

“I have quite a bit in there.”

Thus the possibility exists for that particular keepsake to get lost amid all of his other personal memorabilia.

The hope for the Titans is that it vanishes among a host of other rushing touchdowns this season. For now, though, it stands out as the only one.

A week ago, the Titans were one of two teams (St. Louis was the other) that had not scored a rushing touchdown in the first five weeks of the season. Harper changed that when he went in over the left side on the second play of the second quarter, the second snap after a blocked punt set up the offense at the Steelers’ 1-yard line.

“It’s kind of slow to click but once it clicks it hits,” Harper said. “It goes. Hopefully we’ll just keep rolling from last week.”

They certainly have the right opponent when they play Sunday at Buffalo (noon, CBS). The Bills have allowed a league-high nine rushing touchdowns and are the only team to have allowed more than 1,000 rushing yards.

They also have Harper — a fourth-round pick in 2011 — who likely represents the best opportunity for that to happen.

His size (5-fioot-11, 235 pounds) and rugged running style make him a prime candidate for short-yardage and goal-line situation. Plus, with Chris Johnson’s primary backup, Javon Ringer, sidelined several weeks by a knee injury sustained late in the Oct. 7 loss at Minnesota, Harper is second on the depth chart.

“CJ has been doing a great job of being an every-down back,” he said. “But he’s human like everybody else. So when my number is called to go out there and play, I’m out there, focused and ready to get down to business.”

That call came after the Steelers stopped Johnson on first-and-goal from the 1. Ultimately, his streak of consecutive games without a rushing touchdown extended to 10, a span that includes 148 rushes.

Harper has the one touchdown run on three carries this season and has scored twice in his last eight attempts, dating back to the final two weeks of his rookie season.

“We had some weeks where we had Harper being the third-down runner, the end-of-the-game runner, the four-minute guy, the goal-line guy,” coach Mike Munchak said. “Obviously, because of his size that’s something we want to find a way to get him into the game and make some plays.

“When we got down there [against Pittsburgh] we thought about it on the first down actually. But we already had [Johnson] on the field, so we left him out there.”

He got one crack at it. The breakthrough came with Harper.

“He’s a different type of weapon for us, so we want to get his confidence up too,” Munchak said. “That was the reason for having him in, and I’m sure you’ll see him in, in different spots. Not that CJ can’t run down there. He’s scored many touchdowns over the years as the goal line back.”

It’s just that it has been a while since anyone has given him one of those balls that commemorate touchdowns.