Titans Notebook: Whisenhunt Hopeful Mettenberger Will Return in 2014

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ken Whisenhunt began his weekly Monday press conference with an update on the shoulder of quarterback Zach Mettenberger, and remained steady in his hopes to have the rookie back on the field this season.

"Obviously he left the game yesterday," he said. "He aggravated the sprain of his shoulder. It's pretty sore today. I would say that he's doubtful to play this week but we're going to take it week-to-week and see how he progresses. I know he wants to get back and play."

Mettenberger threw for 125 yards and one interception before leaving Sunday's contest after being sacked by Giants linebacker Devon Kennard in the fourth quarter. In seven starts this season, Mettenberger has completed 60.34 percent of his passes for 1,395 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven interceptions.

Whisenhunt was asked repeatedly if he'd seen enough from Mettenberger to make a decision going forward based on his body of work as a rookie.

"It's been a tough stretch here lately," he said. "I think there will be enough time after the season is over to look at everything in its entirety and I think that's what you have to do. You don't want to make any judgments based on where we are now.

"He's done a lot of good things for us," Whisenhunt continued on his rookie quarterback. "I've been pleased with how he's progressing. Probably what we'll do is take it from his first game to where he was at the last game and look at a number of different things – checks, protections, communication, footwork, decision making, and all those things."

Mettenberger entered Sunday's game with an AC sprain in his throwing shoulder and continued to take hits in the pocket against the Giants. The rookie was sacked five times for the second time in three weeks and took a nasty cheap shot from Giants defensive end Damontre Moore after Mettenberger's fourth-quarter interception.

Whisenhunt didn't dive into his frustrations with the hit that drew a flag for unnecessary roughness. Rookie tackle Taylor Lewan was more candid with his feelings as he was forced to watch the game from the sidelines for the second straight week with an ankle injury.

"I was pretty mad about that," he said. "I don't understand that kind of stuff."

With reports scattered throughout social media the Mettenberger's season was over, Whisenhunt declined that his optimistic outlook was purely gamesmanship.

"I believe he has a legitimate shot to play again this season," he said. "I'm really not trying to dodge it. I'm telling you right here that I'm hopeful that he'll be back this year. That's what our expectation is."

In the meantime, Jake Locker will be back under center for the Titans. Locker hasn't started since week five against the Browns, but has been thrust into two consecutive games with Mettenberger leaving due to injury.

Locker has 936 passing yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions in six games of action this season. Whisenhunt said he's pleased with how Locker has prepared as the Titans backup since being replaced in favor of Mettenberger.

"He's been great in the [quarterback's] room with Zach," he said. "I think there's a good dynamic with both he and Charlie [Whitehurst]. He's worked very hard on the field. You guys have been around Jake a lot longer than I have. I can't imagine anyone handling everything more professionally than Jake. I would imagine he is excited to play."

The Titans have suffered in recent weeks with an offensive line ravaged by injuries. With Michael Roos already on injured reserve and both Lewan and Michael Oher missing consecutive games, Tennessee has had to rely on Will Svitek and Byron Stingily to anchor the line. When Stingily went down early against the Giants with an ankle injury, Terren Jones was forced into the lineup for 42 snaps (72 percent).

No one is making excuses, but there's no denying the circumstances that can mildly be described as unideal.

Whisenhunt said that Oher and Lewan are making progress, but there won't be any real updates until later in the week. Players will get an ever important day off on Tuesday before beginning preparations for the Jets on Wednesday.

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