Titans settling on starting jobs

Monday, September 3, 2007 at 11:34pm

Ryan Fowler has officially emerged as the Tennessee Titans’ new starting middle linebacker, coach Jeff Fisher announced Monday.

Fowler, who started three of the four preseason games, beat out Stephen Tulloch for the job.

With Lamont Thompson’s release handing Calvin Lowry the starting free safety job, the only undetermined spot left is at left cornerback where Cortland Finnegan and top draft pick Michael Griffin are in the running for that spot.

Fowler signed a three-year $11.5 million deal with the Titans this offseason.

“I spoke with both of them. It was a great race. They both played well. Stephen improved throughout the preseason and it was a hard call, but we feel like Ryan will give us a little more in the run game,” Fisher said. “Ryan, even though he doesn’t have the starts and the experience there, he is very instinctive and solid at the point of attack. He’s a lot like Pete [Sirmon] was before the [knee] injury.”

Fisher said the release of Thompson, a three-year starter, came down to the fact that the Titans wanted to keep six cornerbacks rather than five cornerbacks and five safeties among their 10 defensive backs.

“We felt like we were going to be able to keep 10 defensive backs. That was the number,” Fisher said. “The question is do you go five safeties, five corners. Cornerbacks are very difficult to find. We’re going to hang on to our cornerbacks. Really the simplest reason for releasing Lamont was for the other position — the corner position. When you release players that can help you, it doesn’t necessarily relate to the position they’re playing. The decision will be affected by another position. It’s a big picture issue.”

LONG GONE: Rien Long, who had arthroscopic knee surgery just before the end of the preseason, was waived/injured as the Titans placed him on injured reserve and the team will likely reach a settlement with him. Long missed all of 2005 with a torn Achilles tendon, then had knee surgery.

C. ROBY FALLS: Courtney Roby’s release represents a third-round draft pick from 2005 being given up on after just two-plus seasons with the team. Roby returned kickoffs as a rookie and averaged 22.5 yards per return. He also had 21 catches in 2005, but fell down the depth chart and caught just two passes a year ago. He had started camp running with the first receivers but began to fall behind other players. His fate was apparently sealed by the emergence of rookies Chris Davis and Biren Ealy, who both earned spots on the 53-man roster.

“Of course, Courtney being a high draft choice and when given the opportunity, made some plays for us. But you have to look at everything – look at the group and look at potential,” Fisher said.

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Despite releasing quarterback Tim Rattay, Fisher had good things to say about the veteran and even hinted at his return at some point if he is not signed by another team.

“Tim’s still going to be part of our future, hopefully, at some point. We welcome the opportunity to have him back and compete once again,” Fisher said.

FULL-TIME ROLE?: Fisher said Davis, who returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown in the preseason finale against Green Bay, could work his way into that role full-time if he is productive.

“We’re going to continue to give him opportunities,” Fisher said of the fourth-round pick from Florida State. “Whether he becomes a full-time guy, that remains to be seen. If we have to do it by committee, we’ll do it by committee.”

ONE SPOT LEFT: The Titans have one spot remaining on their practice squad and will likely add a defensive lineman as soon as today.

On Sunday, the Titans signed offensive linemen Mike Otto and Isaac Snell, linebacker Collin Allred, running back Quinton Ganther and tight ends Cooper Wallace and Jamie Petrowski, who were all in camp with the club this summer.

Also, the Titans signed former Montgomery Bell Academy quarterback Ingle Martin to the practice squad after he had been released by Green Bay.

Fisher also said the Titans, even though they did not claim anyone from waivers after final cuts, will continue to have players visit and tryout, usually on Tuesdays, as they continue to attempt upgrading the roster throughout the season.

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