Jake Locker’s shoulder injury is not likely to hurt his development. In fact, it might actually help, according to backup Matt Hasselbeck.
“My first year as a starter in Seattle, in 2001, I actually got hurt and Trent Dilfer came in to be the starter,” Hasselbeck said. “I think I learned more when he was playing and I was watching because I had been there and I got to see it again. I just watched exact situations that I had been in.
“Just how it all went down I feel like I learned quite a bit in those situations.”
He was injured in the third game of that season and Dilfer replaced him in the next two.
In his return, in Week 6 against Miami, Hasselbeck threw for a then-career-high 230 yards and two touchdowns — the first multi-touchdown game of his career. He had no touchdowns and three interceptions before he got hurt but threw for seven touchdowns and five interceptions once he was back in action. He avoided any interceptions in six of his first seven games following the injury.
“I know even right now — [Locker] is missing a couple games — that he’s still learning,” Hasselbeck said. “He’s still developing.
“By him helping me, I think it helps him. I know it helps me. So it’s a good working relationship in the whole room. For the guy who has to play it makes it a lot easier to be successful.”
Hasselbeck will make his third straight start in place of Locker on Sunday when the Titans (2-4) play the Buffalo Bills (3-3) on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo (noon, CBS).
Wednesday, though, it was clear that Locker’s return is not far off. The second-year veteran and first-year starter took part in individual drills and threw during the defense’s seven-on-seven period. It was the first time he participated in any phase of practice since Sept. 30, when he sustained a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder for the second time in three weeks.
“It was what we hoped he’d be able to handle,” coach Mike Munchak said. “Now we just have to see how sore he got and just keep progressing and giving him more to do. He’s a guy you have to hold back, he wants to be out there. In his mind, he could play tomorrow if we had to play. He’s progressing the way we hoped, and we’ll see how sore he is from what he did [Wednesday] and keep adding more to his routine.”
After the Bills, the Titans will host the Indianapolis Colts, who are in the midst of their own quarterback developmental project with this year’s first overall pick, Andrew Luck.
Having played every snap for the Colts thus far, Luck has thrown 118 passes, nearly twice as many as Locker (67), the eighth overall choice (and second quarterback) in 2011.
That does not mean, though, that the extra throws as a starter mean the rookie has an edge in experience. Not the way Hasselbeck sees it, that is.
“[Locker] will grow and get better as time goes, no matter what,” Hasselbeck said. “Really. I know that that’s happening. Right now there’s lessons even in going through what he’s going through right now. I now it’s hard. I’ve been there. It’s difficult. It’s stressful. It’s frustrating.
“In the long run, I think all these learning situations are part of being a quarterback in the NFL and part of being a leader and all of it. It all helps.”
• Injury report: Locker was the only player on the Titans’ injury report who had limited participation in the day’s workout. Linebacker Zach Brown (illness), cornerback Tommie Campbell (ankle), defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (shoulder), linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle) and running back Javon Ringer (knee) did not participate. Special teamer Patrick Bailey (hand) and tackle Mike Otto (knee) had full participation.
Locker, Campbell and Ringer have been ruled out for Sunday.