NASHVILLE, Tenn. --No NFL player is ever happy about a demotion or reduced role within a team. To get to the professional level, one has to be a competitor that wants to make an impact on the field. Both Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst expressed as much in reaction to the team's decision to turn to rookie Zach Mettenberger at quarterback.
However, both also said that there is still a job to be done in order to give Mettenberger the greatest opportunity to be successful on Sunday and beyond.
Locker, who was drafted with the eighth overall pick in 2011, handled the situation with the same grace and professionalism that he has exhibited throughout his tenure in Tennessee.
"Tuesday afternoon the coaches sat me down and talked to me about the direction we're going to go this week," Locker said. "It's tough, as a competitor you want to be on the field. You just want to be out there and compete, but at the same time I'm a teammate.
"I'm a teammate to all the guys in this locker room and most importantly this week to Zach," he continued. "I'm going to do everything I can to help him get ready. I really like Zach and I hope he goes out and plays really well. I hope that I can help him any way I can."
The Titans' fourth-year QB only made seven starts in 2013 and had his option for a fifth year declined during the offseason. Even still, Locker was granted his wish for one more chance as the team's signal caller by head coach Whisenhunt and the Titans' front office.
"I asked them for a chance at the end of last year after I got hurt," Locker said. "They gave me that and I'm grateful for it."
Locker has struggled to remain healthy this year, making only four starts in seven games. A wrist injury cost the QB the team's Week 4 game at Indianapolis and a recent thumb injury has kept Locker out since Week 5 vs. Cleveland.
"I understood after last year I didn't know how it would go," Locker said. "Coming in this year they gave me an opportunity and I haven't been in. I haven't played. That's been one of the things I've dealt with throughout my career and I imagine it has something to do with that."
Locker and Whisehunt both said that it was a weekly discussion between the two in terms of how Locker's thumb was progressing. The plan was to go with Locker when healthy, but after evaluating where the team stands through seven weeks, Whisenhunt and the coaching staff decided it was time to shake things up.
"It's not easy. It's frustrating. It's disappointing, but there's still nine games left in the season and I will be Zach's backup," Locker said. "There's a responsibility with that that I don't take lightly. I'll be prepared for the game and try to help Zach in any way I can to have success. That's where my focus will be."
Despite rumors suggesting otherwise, Locker said there has been no strain put on the relationship between him and his head coach.
"I love Jake Locker. He's a tremendous teammate, and I respect that," is what Whisenhunt had to say following Wednesday's practice.
Locker ended his media session by making it clear that he in no way felt slighted by Whisenhunt's choice to go with Mettenberger.
"It's a business and we all know that and we all understand that," Locker said. "I don't think there are always personal vendettas in this business...it's not worth spoiling relationships over that in my opinion."