NASHVILLE, Tenn. — One benefit of training camp is preparing teams for the ups and downs they will encounter during a full season in the NFL.
Titans coach Mike Munchak followed the special teams period of Tuesday night's practice with one-on-one, best-of-five passing and blocking sessions. A set of five up-downs were at stake in each contest. The defense won both of those sessions, and all offensive players had to drop to the ground and get back up five times after each loss.
Munchak said it was a good activity to do in a short week. The Titans returned from their preseason opener in Seattle early Sunday morning and will travel to Tampa on Thursday for Friday's game. He said coaches mentioned to players that there would be some competitive periods, and the players seemed to embrace the challenge and use is as fuel.
"We had a short week this week, so now that we have all the installation in, every day is just mixing all the different things in and showing both sides a lot of different things," Munchak said. "We thought it was fun to let everyone watch what everybody actually does. It's fun to watch the offensive line to watch receivers go one-on-one and receivers to watch those guys go one-on-one, to watch the backs go one-on-one versus the linebackers. So, I think it was good for all of them to see all that."
The offense and defense split the first four matchups of the passing competition, which set up a showdown between fourth-year receiver Lavelle Hawkins and rookie cornerback Coty Sensabaugh. Offensive players made bird noises and flapped their arms like wings for "Hawk" before the play, but Sensabaugh broke up the pass and received ample congratulations.
"He did a heck of a job," Munchak said. "That's what's fun. No matter what happens on the first two, it's usually two-two going into the fifth and deciding one. So I always try to tell them you put your best guy fifth, but it was good. I think that's what you want out here. You want everyone watching. They know there are some consequences, some up-downs when they lose. They start cheering once they figure that out. So, I think it was good."
The offense later forced the defense to do a set when it prevailed during a pass rush competition period.
QBs LOOK FORWARD TO LOCKER'S START: Second-year quarterback Jake Locker and 14-year veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck said Tuesday that they are looking forward to Locker making his first start in the game at Tampa Bay.
Locker and Hasselbeck are in a friendly competition to win the starting spot for the 2012 season, and the decision to start Locker is part of the evaluation process to see how he handles certain situations and more reps with the first-team offense in a game setting. The QBs have rotated reps throughout the offseason.
"I think it's really similar to what we've done throughout camp, just being able to work with the ones and twos, and I think that's the thought process going into the game," Locker said. "I think that last weekend I got more time with the twos and Matt got more time with the ones. I think it's just staying consistent with what we've done throughout camp.
"It wasn't as big a decision at this point," Locker added. "I think it's more of an extension with practice. I think it's more of that than one guy's performance over another guy's performance. It's awesome. I'm grateful to have the opportunity and I'm excited about it."
Hasselbeck said he, Locker, Rusty Smith and Nick Stephens will continue to support whichever player is on the field. Munchak made the announcement Monday, which brought back memories of when Hasselbeck started his first preseason game when he was with Green Bay.
"More than anything, I'm excited for him (about) this weekend and this opportunity," Hasselbeck said. "I remember when I got to start some preseason games, and it was awesome. I actually didn't know early in the week. I think my first start ever in a preseason game at Denver, and Brett Favre didn't come out on time for warm-ups. I see him come out, and he lifts his jersey up to show me he's not wearing rib pads. I'm like what does that mean? I remember how special that was and how exciting that was. It's a special time. You remember that your whole life."
SPECIAL GUESTS: Jordan Babineaux and Shaun Smith welcomed seniors from Maplewood High School's football team to Tuesday's practice and their respective foundations are providing back-to-school necessities to the students.
Maplewood assistant coach Bryan Holt recently passed away at age 35. He had sickle cell anemia and was an inspiration to the players and coaches. Babineaux delivered an uplifting message to the players before practice.
NOTES: Mike Otto injured his finger and missed reps. … The Titans rested Aaron Francisco (soreness), Gerald McRath (knee), Byron Stingily (ankle). … Dave Ball (concussion) is out at least until next week.