No one expects any single player to fill Kenny Britt’s role on the Tennessee Titans offense.
Somebody, though, will have to play his position on every snap. The important thing is for everyone to know who that person is, which was not always the case in Sunday’s 17-14 victory over the Denver Broncos.
“You need to know who you are, what position you’re playing when you step in the huddle,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “With Kenny out, we had a stretch there where we were not sure who we were — the flanker, the split end, the wide receiver. Because people were keying on Kenny, we were trying to move him around … and some of the play calls got very wordy and a little bit confusing.
“With Kenny out, it became very confusing. There was one play in particular where we were a total mess.”
Now the team has plenty of time to sort out those issues.
Britt, the Titans’ leading receiver through the first two weeks of the season, was diagnosed Monday with tears to the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee, issues that require season-ending surgery. He sustained the injury with just under six minutes to play in the second quarter Sunday when he was tackled following a reception.
The situation leaves just four healthy receivers on the active roster and forces the team to add a free agent, a move that is expected either Tuesday or Wednesday. Britt will be placed on injured reserve to make room for someone else.
“A guy like him — he’s a special guy,” coach Mike Munchak said. “We’ve been talking about that since last year or since we drafted him. We started seeing a lot of that last year and we all know what a great start he was off to this year. He’s a great weapon to have and it’s very unfortunate.
“He was playing well.”
Britt’s season ends with him having caught 17 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns in just fewer than 10 quarters of play. His average of 17.0 yards per catch is second among the NFL’s top 15 in receptions through Sunday’s contests.
“He’s a special player and he’s got a lot of work ahead of him,” Munchak said. “He’s young and we know he’ll be back next year. It’s just very unfortunate.”
The reconstructive surgery will not take place for at least a week while doctors allow the swelling to subside.
The 2009 first-round draft choice has led the Titans in receiving yards in each of his two seasons in the league. His nine touchdown catches in 2010 were the most by any Tennessee receiver since Drew Bennett had 11 in 2004.
Britt had more than 100 yards receiving in four of his last eight games, prior to Sunday, a stretch that was interrupted last season by a hamstring injury that cost him four full games and virtually all of a fifth.
The Titans were winless last fall when he was out of the lineup.
“This is probably going to be a little more of what I’m used to — spreading the ball around to a bunch of different people,” Hasselbeck, in his first year with Tennessee, said. “Having a guy like Kenny is a little unusual for me. … I think he’s really great and can just dominate a game.
“… Everybody is going to really have to step up their games and find ways to improve. It’s not going to be business as usual. It’s not going to be ‘come in on Tuesday and go through the motions.’ You’re going to have to work as hard as you’ve ever worked — and even that might not be good enough. People have to step up — everybody.”