NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With an injured Zach Mettenberger on the active roster, the Titans are expected to start Jake Locker at quarterback Sunday against the Jets.
The start will be Locker's first since Week 5 against the Browns, a game he was forced to leave in the second quarter with a hand injury after completing eight-of-11 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.
"I'm looking forward for the opportunity to compete," Locker put simply, dispelling the discussion that he's auditioning for a future role.
The fourth-year quarterback has spent the last six weeks in a backup role after the coaching staff made the decision to go with Mettenberger. He's made appearances in both of Tennessee's last two games with Mettenberger being forced to leave with a shoulder injury.
In those two relief appearances, Locker has completed 15 passes for 172 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while adding 28 yards on the ground. Locker said he looks forward to getting all the practice reps this week in preparation for the Jets.
"I think the only difference is that you get the reps during the week," he said. "I feel like I was prepared the last two weeks. I knew what we had in the game plan, I knew what we were doing in protection and all those sorts of things…you just didn't get the opportunity to run the plays during the week. Now I have that opportunity."
The media continued to pepper Locker with questions about his future in the NFL and the QB refused to give in.
"When you get caught up spending too much time thinking about the future, you forget to cherish the moment right in front of you," he said. "I've built a lot of relationships in this locker room and I'm looking forward to competing with these guys to end the season.
"Our job is to go out and win football games. That's my goal, and I believe it's the goal of everyone in this locker room. We're going to do our best to be prepared and go out and play a good football game."
Locker did admit that his demotion to second-string has been trying at times. Since taking the reins under center in 2012, there had never been a question that when healthy, Tennessee's offense was Jake Locker's to lead.
"It's challenging," he conceded. "It's one of the challenges I've faced this year and probably one of the tougher ones in my life to this point. I think I grew a lot from it and learned a lot from it and I'm thankful for it. I think I'm a better person for it. There are things I learned through the course of that which I'll keep with me forever."
Jets head coach Rex Ryan gave Locker high praise in his conference call on Wednesday. Locker completed 75 percent of his passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns against the Jets in Week 4 last season at LP Field.
"He's a very athletic guy," Ryan said of Locker. "There's no question, and I thought he threw the ball much better than what was advertised. He really carved us up. Again, we haven't forgotten that, that's for sure."
Ryan went as far as to say he wishes he didn't have to see number 10 on Sunday.
"To be honest, I was hoping he'd be playing this week, because he is a rookie," he said of Mettenberger. "Sometimes it's a little tough, but with (Jake) Locker back there, obviously his dual run-pass threat, you've got to be on high alert against him."
In a battle of 2-11 teams on Sunday, there might not be playoff spots at stake, but don't tell Locker there's nothing to play for in 2014.
"What's at stake is the opportunity to play this weekend," Locker said. "The two weekends after that aren't guaranteed. I'm excited about this opportunity. I'm excited to compete with this football team against the New York Jets."
Update From the Training Table
• Taylor Lewan and Kendall Wright were listed as limited in practice Wednesday.
• Daimion Stafford, Michael Oher, Byron Stingily, Zach Mettenberger, Michael Griffin, and Kamerion Wimbley all did not practice.
• Justin Hunter (lacerated spleen) is already on IR, but is doing just fine, Whisenhunt said Wednesday. He was on the sideline for Sunday's game against the Giants.