A divide now exits in the Tennessee Titans recent history of first-round draft picks.
The release of Vince Young in the wake of the lockout meant that back-to-back top choices -- Pacman Jones in 2005 and Young in 2006 –- failed to live up to expectations and were cut loose before the end of their careers.
Since Young’s selection, Tennessee has picked five players in the first round, all of them still with the team: Michael Griffin (2007), Chris Johnson (2008), Kenny Britt (2009), Derrick Morgan (2010) and Jake Locker (2011).
Each still figures prominently in the organization's plans. Their impact on the current training camp and preseason, though, is minimized by either injury or absence.
Britt will miss his second straight contest Saturday at St. Louis (7 p.m., WKRN-TV Ch. 2) because of continued issues with his hamstring.
The third-year wide receiver was limited through the first two weeks of camp and held out of the preseason opener because of concerns with the injury that caused him to miss four games in 2010. He did not practice Thursday.
“I think he has just been sore,” coach Mike Munchak said. “I think there is just a little soreness coming into his leg there from all the stuff he has been doing and he has probably been favoring things.
“We just thought that enough is enough and we would cut him back since he is not going to play on Saturday. So hopefully he will be fresh and ready to go Monday.”
Johnson continues to be persona non grata and he remains firm in his demands for a new contract. In some ways, he has been the biggest story and generated the most headlines by staying a way, a move that subjects him to a fine of $30,000 per day.
“I think he needs to be here,” Munchak said. “From playing myself, I know you need reps. Does he need six weeks of reps? No, he does not. But he needs time to just get used to the system and get your feet under you. … Definitely, you are hoping to have him here for the third or fourth game so he can get some of those kinks out of his system because no matter how special you are, it is still hard to just step in and play at that level.”
Morgan, Griffin and Locker all saw action against the Vikings, but Morgan’s participation was limited and his efforts have been monitored carefully in the wake of a knee injury that caused him to miss the vast majority of his rookie season.
“He didn’t play as much as he probably wanted to play,” Munchak said. “We wanted to be very careful with him as far as how much action he would get. We still have a lot of time left before the first game, so we are real happy where he is at. I’m sure he’s frustrated, and wanting to do more and more, but we've just got to be careful with him.”
Even in limited duty, Morgan had three tackles (tied for the most of among Titans’ defensive linemen) and one of the defense’s four sacks.
“I felt all right,” he said. “I’m getting back into the swing of things and getting my comfort level back to where I want it to be. … I felt really blessed to be out there.”
Griffin’s work was limited, as was that of most of the starters.
Locker, of course, made a big splash in his preseason debut. He completed seven of 10 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown for a quarterback rating of 130.8. The top rating among quarterbacks who met the minimum standard for league leaders in the preseason was 111.4.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Locker said. “So I think you want to be a little more efficient … making sure we’re 100 percent in our reads. Then when you have opportunities to make plays over the top, you capitalize on them.”
Maybe by the start of the regular season, they will have the opportunity to take advantage of the talents of all their recent first-round picks.
• An estimated 250 soldiers, most of whom are with the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, attended practice as part of a USO event.
“The soldiers had a chance to talk to the players before we came out and they just kind of got away from everything for the day,” Munchak said. “I obviously wish we had a more exciting practice. I think the players really enjoyed it that they [soldiers] were here to watch, and I wish we did something like this more often.”
• Running back Javon Ringer (hip) missed practice for the fourth straight day.
Munchak said the third-year veteran has not been ruled out for the St. Louis game but free agent Kestahn Moore was signed.
“We’ll see how [Ringer] is [Friday],” Munchak said. “That’s the good thing about preseason; you can kind of wait right up until the last minute before you have to announce anything. We hoped he’d do more [Thursday].”
Long snapper Jake Ingram was waived.
• Wide receiver Lavell Hawkins returned to workouts after having been excused the previous two days for personal reasons.
• For the first time in camp, weather forced the team to move its workout inside. Lightning in the area caused the change midway through the workout.