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McCarthy Back in the Middle



NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans linebacker Colin McCarthy on Wednesday said he's "good to go" this week after practicing in almost a full capacity for the first time in four weeks.

McCarthy suffered an ankle injury in the season opener against New England two days after the second-year pro had been chosen as a defensive captain by teammates.

The ankle injury removed McCarthy from the middle of Tennessee's defense, forcing him from the field to the sidelines and the training room. McCarthy also spent considerable time in the film room.

"I've just been trying to stay involved," McCarthy said. "I think, being injured, you can get away from your team a little bit. You're not out there, you're not going through your stuff. You're kind of in the training room, doing your own thing, so when we're in meetings and stuff, I tried to watch film and just need to prepare myself, so when my opportunity comes, I don't miss a beat."

He watched film as keenly as a movie critic, identifying some areas that the Titans (1-3) want to improve in their final 12 games of the season. That starts Sunday when Tennessee visits Minnesota (3-1).

 McCarthy said he was "studying our defense and figuring out where some of our mistakes are, some of the things that we're not doing as a unit, so when I get the opportunity to get back in there, we have the opportunity to correct them."

McCarthy said his ankle held up well to Wednesday's challenge. He and the training staff and coaching staff will continue to monitor it as the week progresses.

"My idea was to get out there when I'm ready to play because I don't want to be limited," McCarthy said. "I don't want to be worried about my ankle at all. Today was a good step of getting back out with the guys, continuing to work and put some time in."

Titans coach Mike Munchak and teammates welcomed McCarthy's return.

"It's good to have your leader back, the guy that is your team leader on defense, your guy that makes plays for us," Munchak said. "Communication, there are so many things he does for us that we've missed. It's going to be great to have him back in the lineup."

The Titans trailed the Patriots 14-3 when McCarthy suffered the injury in the second quarter. They fell behind in the first quarters of games at San Diego and at Houston and didn't close the gap either time.

Tennessee moved Will Witherspoon to middle linebacker and started Zach Brown in place of Witherspoon at weakside linebacker the past three games. Zac Diles also received an increased number of snaps at middle linebacker the past two games.

Witherspoon said McCarthy is a "great leader on the field."

"That's one of the things that we've all enjoyed, to see how much he's grown in just the last year and see where he's at," Witherspoon said.

Titans safety Michael Griffin said McCarthy is the "heart and soul" of the defense and said his return will be a "big plus for the defense."

"He's a guy that's always around the ball, especially running to the ball," Griffin said. "He has a knack for getting the ball out from the ball carrier."

McCarthy said the Titans need to force more turnovers and be stronger on third down.

Tennessee is minus-6 in turnover ratio, which is tied for 30th in the NFL, and opponents have converted 45.45 percent of third downs, which ranks 28th in the league.

Those stats starkly contrast the preseason when most of the defense was healthy and the Titans led the NFL with 13 total takeaways (eight interceptions and five fumble recoveries) and held opponents to a 36 percent success rate on third downs.

"Me coming back this week, I hope, will be a relief to our defense, get us back on track the way we were playing in the preseason and going into Week 1, so we're excited," McCarthy said. "I'm excited to get back on the field, especially, and just ready for Sunday."

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