As long as Matt Hasselbeck can stand tall in the pocket, the Tennessee Titans intend to stand pat at quarterback.
“We’re looking at it as we’re in the middle of a playoff run here and we have to win these three games,” coach Mike Munchak said. “If Matt’s healthy, then Matt will quarterback us.”
Of course, Hasselbeck’s health is a question mark given that he sustained a calf injury early in the second quarter of Sunday’s 22-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints. He played just one snap after that and then hopped off the field.
Rookie Jake Locker replaced him and completed 13 of 29 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown. He also was the Titans’ leading rusher with 36 yards on six carries.
The defeat dropped the Titans to 7-6 tied with Cincinnati and Oakland for the seventh-best record in the AFC (top six make the playoffs). The New York Jets won their third straight Sunday and seized control of the final wild card spot at 8-5.
Tennessee’s only option to make the playoffs is as a wild card after Houston clinched the AFC South on Sunday.
“I think they both give us a good chance to win,” Munchak said. “We feel good. We’ve been saying it since Jake came in and showed how well he handled himself with the team and in training camp and preseason games and the little bit you’ve seen him during the season.
“Because of an injury, we’re not going to all of the sudden decide that now is the time to make a change. If Matt’s not healthy then that’s another conversation. If Matt’s healthy and ready to roll then he’ll be the guy.”
Munchak added that Hasselbeck was at the team’s training facility Monday afternoon and moved around fine without the help of an orthopedic boot or any other aide. Results of an MRI on Hasselbeck’s left calf were not immediately known.
“He’s sore but … it’s more or less waiting to see how he is [Tuesday] and Wednesday,” Munchak said. “We’re assuming it’s on the mild side, whatever it is.
“Until you start going out there and moving around and doing the things that a quarterback has to do then we’ll know a lot more then.”
Locker, the eighth overall pick in April’s draft, now has made three appearances — one in garbage time of a lopsided victory over Cleveland, in the third quarter of a loss to Atlanta and prior to halftime against the Saints.
He has completed just 46 percent of his passes but has three touchdown throws with no interceptions. His quarterback rating — on just 50 attempts — is 96.6. Hasselbeck has a quarterback rating of 83.0 and a completion percentage of 61.0 on 403 attempts.
Locker is the third quarterback drafted by the Titans/Oilers in the first round since 1995.
Steve McNair (third overall) started the final two games and appeared in two others in 1995. Vince Young (third overall) started 13 games and was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006.
The franchise did not have a winning record or make the playoffs in either of those seasons.
“As far as [Locker], he’ll have plenty of time to be our guy,” Munchak said. “We wouldn’t put him in just to get experience. We know we can win with him in there. We feel real good about what we’ve seen just in the two games he’s had a chance to play. So we’ll just kind of take it from there.
“Our thing is we have three huge games ahead of us. We have to take care of all three of those if we want to play anymore.”
• Other injuries: Munchak said no determination was made regarding linebackers Gerald McRath (ankle/knee) and Akeem Ayers (shoulder) and running back Javon Ringer (hand) regarding their availability for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis (noon, CBS).
Nate Washington was shaken up on his 40-yard reception on the final drive after having not practiced all last week with an ankle injury. Munchak said Washington would be available this week.
Locker, who came out for one play after getting hit in the fourth quarter, was “sore,” according to Munchak, but not injured.