NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With the status of top cornerback Jason McCourty up in the air for Sunday's game at Cincinnati, Titans backups Brandon Harris and Marqueston Huff have been working hard this week to prepare in case their numbers are called.
McCourty is officially listed as "questionable" on Friday's injury report. Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he appreciates the work McCourty has put in this week and that he'll know more about the cornerback's status on Sunday. "I'm sure we'll put a lot of time in it between now and then talking about it, seeing how Jason feels and go from there," Whisenhunt said. "We'll know more Sunday."
The mantra around the NFL is 'next man up' when referring to injuries, but defensive coordinator Ray Horton prefers a different term.
"If you have a hat on, you have to be accountable," Horton said. "I like being accountable to your teammates so you can't say 'well coach I didn't know I wasn't prepared.' You have to be accountable to go in and play. Whether its Marqueston Huff or Brandon Harris, it doesn't matter who is in there. If you have a helmet on, you get paid - go do your job."
Horton said he has no fear about throwing Harris or Huff into the mix because sooner or later, they're going to be called upon .
"It's great to throw these guys in there and get them tested because they're the type of players we're going to count on to mature and be a player for us as the season progresses," he said. "We have to count on those players, so let them go, let them play."
Whisenhunt was asked about each corner this week during his daily press conferences starting with Harris.
"He's working to try to get a spot to play some," said Whisenhunt. "That's what they're all doing. You never know from week to week how that's all going to play out. The best thing he can do is be prepared because at some point he's going to have to play."
Whisenhunt then had this to say about Huff, the lone rookie in the secondary.
"(Marqueston) Huff's doing a good job," he began. "He's a young player. You understand that with young players. He's working hard on special teams, where he knew that he could make his impact early. He played a little bit in last week's game. It's always a little bit different for young players. He's going to be a good player for us. You just have to work through things that are typical with young players."
Harris joined the team after being cut by Houston, where he logged 27 total tackles in three seasons with the Texans. He has only been a member of the Titans for a few weeks and feels like he's starting to settle in to his new team.
"I feel like I'm getting acclimated, learning the locker room and learning the guys," said Harris. "Just being at practice and learning how things are done here. It's been a pretty good experience thus far."
He told reporters that he feels comfortable playing inside or outside and has treated every practice rep like a game situation. His diligence at Saint Thomas Sports Park has him prepared for whatever his role may be come Sunday.
"Anytime you're on the roster, you're always a play away from going in," Harris said. "That's what I've been doing the last few weeks. When my number is called I know I'll be ready."
Huff had similar comments regarding his preparation for Sunday.
"I prepare every week like I'm the number one guy and I'm going to be out there playing every down," said Huff. "That's how I've done it from college all the way till now."
The rookie from Wyoming was taken in fourth round (122 overall) in this year's draft and has benefited from a strong group of veterans in the Titans defensive backfield.
"I have a great group of guys around me with the veteran guys in Michael, George, BP, all of them…they continue to help me grow as a player and as a person," Huff said.
As is the case for rookies around the league, this weekend might be the chance that Huff has waited his whole life for.
"I can't wait for the opportunity to show the world -- and most importantly my teammates -- that I deserve to be here and I can play in this league," he said.
McCourty's status will be something to watch on Sunday. If the Titans' star corner is unable to go, Huff and Harris have made it clear they've the challenge of being the "next men up."