So far, practice time has been divided almost completely equally between the Tennessee Titans three young quarterbacks.
Time is running short, though, for Jake Locker, Rusty Smith and Brett Ratliff.
Beginning Thursday, Matt Hasselbeck — the Titans’ prized free agent acquisition — will be eligible to practice, as will the rest of the team’s free agents due to the amended schedule created in the wake of the lockout. At that point, Hasselbeck likely will get all of the work with the first team and possibly more as he works to complete his crash course in coordinator Chris Palmer’s offense.
For now, though, the youngsters are getting much more opportunity than they normally would.
“Yeah, it is an advantage for all three young guys … until Matt’s back in,” coach Mike Munchak said. “Then we’ll kind of get the rotation going.”
Locker, the first-round draft pick out of the University of Washington, has been the guy at the top of the depth chart since Saturday, the first day of on-field work. Smith and Ratliff have switched off going second and third, although all typically have gotten the same amount of reps, despite an altered schedule during Tuesday’s evening session costing Ratliff a couple turns late.
Smith is the only one of the three who ever has played in an NFL game. He attempted 40 passes in two appearances, including one start, last season as a rookie.
“Right now I’m getting more reps than I ever have in practice and I’m loving it,” he said. “I’m loving having the opportunity to show what I can do and get better.
“ … Due to the sole fact that Matt’s not getting reps, we’re getting more reps as the young guys.”
Ratliff has seen his share of NFL workouts. He spent time with two other teams over the previous three seasons but has yet to see the field. Locker, of course, was in college until the Titans drafted him eighth overall back in April.
Hasselbeck, on the other hand, has been in the league for 13 seasons and has thrown for just shy of 30,000 yards.
“He’s chewing at the bit. I think he’s very anxious to get in there,” Munchak said. “Being in the league as long as he has I don’t think he’s ever sat around quite like this when he was healthy.
“I think he’s frustrated, like the other eight or nine guys are who aren’t practicing. He’s been taking a lot of mental reps. … He’ll be ready to go and we’ll see how quickly he picks things up once he gets reps on Thursday.”
That’s also when the other three will see how quickly — and dramatically — their reps drop.
“I’m going to take the reps I get and try to make the most of them, now and in a couple weeks,” Locker said. “I’m going to do as much as I can when I’m not in there to watch him and watch the other guys and learn from them.
“Yeah, [I want to] take advantage of it when I do get my opportunities.”
As for the rest of the players on offense, who entered the offseason with no idea about who would be the quarterback, they’re happy to take what they can get.
“All of the things that have happened to us … in the quarterback situation — people saying they don’t know who is going to be the quarterback, Jake came in and [it was] ‘Are we going to get a veteran quarterback?’” wide receiver Nate Washington said. “I’m proud to see the progression that these guys have made in the couple days that they’ve been here.
“We’ve had confidence in them and they’re showing why. They’re working hard and they’re progressing with us. That’s the thing that we need.”
• Free agent rookie fullback Patrick Hill left practice for a time after his helmet and facemask broke in a collision with linebacker Gerald McRath. The 5-foot-9, 242-pounder said he also broke two helmets during his college career at (Miami).
“It didn’t hurt,” he said. “The bad part was that I missed about a period and a half while they put together a new helmet for me.”
• Third-year cornerback Ryan Mouton left the practice with what looked like an injury to his right ankle. He put no weight on the leg as team medical personnel helped him to the locker room.
“It just happened at the end of practice,” Munchak said. “… You don’t want to see a guy limping off that way, and hopefully it’s not real bad.”