Call it open audition time for the Tennessee Titans in their return game.
Mark Jones and Chris Davis, the two primary candidates for one or both return jobs, remain on the shelf with hamstring injuries.
Their top challenger, rookie cornerback Ryan Mouton, was lost with an ankle injury in Tuesday’s practice, leaving several players who could be considered on the fringe of making the roster getting an opportunity to showcase themselves in Friday night’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Those who will get a chance to do some returns in the game include running back Rafael Little, who has had precious few chances thus far in the logjam at running back to show off his skills in a preseason game.
Another who is on the list to return punts is safety Tuff Harris, who proved to be a versatile special teams player after joining the Titans in midseason a year ago.
On kickoffs, the Titans will continue to give sixth-round pick Jason McCourty a shot there, but will also look at Little and rookie running back Javon Ringer as well.
Can a job be won by breaking a punt or kickoff return for one of these players?
Maybe, but, according to Titans coach Jeff Fisher, it will probably take more than just one breakaway return.
“They’re going to have to be consistent. We’ll evaluate them on the field and in the ballgame. We’ve seen some of them do it in the past,” Fisher said.
Out of action
Several Titans have already been ruled out of Saturday’s game, including tackle David Stewart (knee), safety Nick Schommer (hamstring), linebacker Josh Stamer (groin), Mouton (ankle), Davis (hamstring) and defensive tackle Jason Jones (foot).
Others who have not been ruled out but, based on their lack of practice time this week, could miss the game include linebackers Stephen Tulloch (knee), nickelback Vincent Fuller (groin) and receiver Mark Jones (hamstring).
Colin Allred (ankle) has also been limited somewhat in practice.
First team or not
Earlier in the week, Fisher announced that Vince Young would likely get a chance to play some with the first team offense, even though he would not start against the Cowboys.
On Wednesday, Fisher appeared to back off that a little bit, saying that Kerry Collins might go the entire time with the first string and Young coming in with backups again, as he has done the previous two weeks.
Asked when Young would play, Fisher said, “When we make changes offensively. It really depends on how the first half goes and how Kerry does. If it doesn’t happen this week then it will happen next week.”
Fisher said most of the starters will play well into the second quarter and maybe until halftime.
“We’re going to just increase about a series, maybe two series. You can expect most of the starters to play well into the second quarter, maybe up to halftime but no longer than that,” Fisher said.
Getting a chance
Fisher confirmed that Tanard Davis will see the majority of the reps at nickelback this week against the Cowboys with injuries to Fuller and Mouton.
Davis says he is excited about the opportunity.
“You always wait for somebody else to give you the opportunity. I’m sorry for Mouton getting hurt, but I’ve just got to step up,” Davis said.
Fisher reiterated what those around the team already knew – that the Titans have no interest in former Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, despite a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN to the contrary.
Fisher not only drove that point home, but took a shot at Schefter in the process.
“We’ve not contacted Marvin. We’ve had no contact whatsoever with Marvin or his agent and to be quite honest with you I don’t know where Adam Schefter got that information,” Fisher said.
Asked if the Titans might have any future interest in Harrison, Fisher replied, “No. You’ll have to just stay put and see what Adam says because he’s got a better take on what we’re doing than we do.”