|Cornerback Cortland Finnegan returned to practice Monday and hopes to play in Thursday night's preseason finale at home vs. New Orleans.|
Finnegan has started 47 of his 61 games in his first four seasons, and the Titans are counting on matching him up against opponents' top receivers this season. He talked after practice with a bag of ice taped to his right hip and said it hasn't been easy watching his teammates practice without him.
"It was a blessing to be back out with those guys and running around. I felt like a loser, an outsider not being able to practice with them. Now I feel a part of the team again,'' Finnegan said.
Finnegan led the Titans with five interceptions last season despite missing three games with a hamstring injury. That matched the number of interceptions he had in 2008 as an All-Pro, but the Titans struggled without him, which prompted team officials to give the cornerback more rest to be fully recovered going into the season.
He said he feels recovered. Being patient was the tough part.
"I did a good part taking it and healing it. Now I'm just working out some cobwebs. I look forward to tomorrow's practice, and hopefully I get to play Thursday night,'' he said.
That would be in the Titans' preseason finale against the defending champion New Orleans Saints (2-1), and he hopes to be able to play on both sides of the field.
The Titans have used Finnegan's absence to give extra playing time to the cornerbacks competing to start opposite him. Ryan Mouton started opposite Jason McCourty in Seattle, while rookie Alterraun Verner has started the past two games in Finnegan's spot.
"Vern and J-Mac are playing so well, they're on my heels if not surpassed me. I need to get out there and make some plays,'' Finnegan said.
Receiver Justin Gage also returned to practice after a sore right thumb had kept him out of the past two preseason games. But left guard Leroy Harris sat out with an ankle Monday.
The Titans (1-2) have yet to heal up completely on defense. Tackle Tony Brown and linebacker David Thornton remain on the physically unable to perform list, though coach Jeff Fisher said Monday both still have a chance to play Thursday night. The Titans will practice Tuesday with a walkthrough Wednesday.
Fisher cited rookie Derrick Morgan's strong play on 15 snaps in Saturday night's 15-7 loss to Carolina as a player who practiced only once before getting into a game.
"We don't have a whole lot of time, but both of them are experienced and they've played before,'' Fisher said of Brown and Thornton.
NOTES:Rookie LB Rennie Curran (hamstring), OL Mike Otto (right knee), DT Kareem Brown (left shoulder) and DE William Hayes (right knee) also missed practice. CB Pete Ittersagen, who suffered a concussion Aug. 23 in a game against Arizona, also returned.