Friday, August 3, 2012
In Nashville, competition sans controversy
By Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We’re a small little corner of the NFL over here in the AFC South. We understand a division of relocators and expansion teams doesn’t draw the same spotlight as Tim Tebow in New York, and we generally don’t care.
But I did, naively, think that a true quarterback competition between veteran Matt Hasselbeck and kid Jake Locker would be a hotter storyline than it's been.
Slow as I am, it took me until tonight to figure out why it isn’t.
QBs Jake Locker, left, and Matt Hasselbeck are "two good guys going at it for the greater good of the team," one fellow Titan said.
It’s simply not sexy.
There is no good versus evil.
There is no white hat.
There isn’t even a fan favorite.
While die-hards might lean one way or the other, even they understand both options and seem to be able to handle the case for the other guy.
The Titans, of course, are used to not being a giant story and don’t particularly care how the team or the quarterback battle are covered.
As I talked about it with a few of them, though, they agreed with my thinking.
“It’s a quarterback competition, not so much a quarterback controversy,” receiver Nate Washington said.
“In a lot of situations there is always a figure involved who there is some favoritism with,” receiver Damian Williams said. “Unfortunately, a lot of times that sort of flies under the radar, when you have two good guys going at it for the greater good of the team.”
After two bad days, Locker rebounded with a solid showing Friday afternoon (16-of-20) though one ball batted by linebacker Will Witherspoon near the line of scrimmage was picked off by safety Jordan Babineaux. Hasselbeck (13-of-15) continued to play well. I saw quick decision-making and a lot of accurate, in rhythm throws regardless of the QB in the huddle.
Hasselbeck and Locker strike the same themes as they face the same questions: They want to help each other out; they are friends, not rivals; they don’t anticipate those things changing or there being bitterness based on how things come out.
"Obviously I'll be a little disappointed that I wasn't able to do it, but it's not gong to change how I go about preparing, how I go about trying to move my career along," Locker said of a scenario in which he's not the guy.
“They actually do like each other, actually do like to help each other and root for each other a little bit,” coach Mike Munchak said. “I think they’ve both handled it well. There is going to be ups and downs for both of them. And that’s made it easier. The hard part is that only one can play.”
As for the limited scope of the story, Hasselbeck is willing to raise his hand and take a good share of the blame.
“Being irrelevant in Green Bay and then being sort of in the witness protection program in Seattle, I’m boring, so I’m not helping the situation,” Hasselbeck said. “We’re focused on football, we’re out here trying to get better, we’re just trying to make ourselves better and trying to make our room better. And in turn that will make our team better.”