McCarthy's absence adds to the challenge for Titans' defense

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 10:07pm

The fact that middle linebacker Colin McCarthy was not involved in practice Wednesday probably was a good thing. Chances are, after all, the Tennessee Titans need to learn to be without him.

“We anticipate that it would be hard for him to play this week,” coach Mike Munchak said following the workout.

McCarthy sustained an ankle injury late in the first half of last Sunday’s 34-13 loss to the New England Patriots. He returned to action at the start of the second half but came off again after a couple plays. He watched the end of the game in street clothes.

Munchak classified the injury as a sprain and said early indications are that he would not miss extended time. The coach added, though, that the defense definitely would miss McCarthy, however long his absence.

“I think we missed him a lot on Sunday,” Munchak said. “I think people underestimate how much we missed him on Sunday. … All of a sudden, a guy like that gets pulled from the lineup, you’ve got to move on, and that’s not why we didn’t win the football game, but that definitely affected your team when you lose a guy like that. It’s like losing a quarterback. I mean, he’s a top guy.”

A fourth-round draft pick in 2011, McCarthy was named a team captain prior to this season. He took over the job halfway through last season when injuries knocked veteran Barrett Ruud out of action and he registered 74 tackles over the final eight games. He led the NFL in interceptions this preseason.

If McCarthy does not play Sunday at San Diego (4:25 p.m., CBS) veteran Will Witherspoon will move from outside linebacker to middle linebacker and rookie Zach Brown, Tennessee’s second-round pick in April, will have an expanded role.

• Other injures: Eight players, including quarterback Jake Locker (shoulder), wide receivers Nate Washington (leg) and Kenny Britt (knee), defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks (knee) and running back Javon Ringer (elbow), were on the Titans’ official injury report.

Locker, Britt and Marks were the only ones who participated in the day’s practice session.

Locker took part in each of the drills but did less than he normally would. He worse a long sleeve shirt that covered a support device he wore to protect and/or stabilize his left (non-throwing) shoulder.

“I probably could have been able to do more,” Locker said. “We kind of have a schedule that we made early in the week. It will increase as the week goes.

“… I think I’ll be fine. I don’t know if I’ll even have to wear anything [for protection]. I think it should be fine.”

The new guy: Munchak believes veteran guard Deuce Lutui, signed as a free agent Monday, has the experience that will allow him to learn the Titans’ offense quickly. Then again, Lutui might not have a choice.

Starting right guard Leroy Harris sat out the workout because of the lingering effects of offseason knee surgery.

“That’s why we had to bring another guard in here,” Munchak said. “We assume [Harris] will continue to get better. I’ve been through that with a knee, other guys have been. Usually you get stronger the more you play. … [If] for some reason it doesn’t go that way, now we feel we have answers if we have to make any adjustments.”

Munchak compared Lutui (6-foot-4, 338 pounds), who has six years of NFL experience with Arizona, to long-time Titans right guard Benji Olson.

Quote of note: “Obviously, when you start on defense, you start with certain guys and in my mind you start with the running game.  You have to be effective stopping the run.  We are very aware of how explosive Chris [Johnson] is and what he is capable of doing.  We have seen it first-hand.  We just have to be ready to do a great job against him.  You have to stop him at the point.” – San Diego coach Norv Turner on Titans running back Chris Johnson.

Briefly: Washington’s first career 100-yard receiving game came with the Titans at San Diego. He caught four passes for 117 yards and a touchdown on Oct. 31, 2010. … Tennessee has lost five of its last six against teams from the AFC West, a stretch which includes two games against San Diego. … The Titans have allowed points in nine straight quarters, dating back to last season. That is one short of the longest streak under Munchak.