NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A day before Titans rookie offensive lineman Jeremiah Poutasi turned 21 last week, veteran quarterback Charlie Whitehurst had a birthday himself.
Whitehurst turned 33 last Thursday. He's the oldest Titan, and that's a fact he didn't initially embrace.
"At first when I realized it, I didn't know how I felt about it,'' Whitehurst said with a smile. "But the more I think about it, I am proud. I am proud of that. I guess some of the guys didn't know I was that old, so I am proud of that.
"When I told them I was 33, there were a couple of shocked faces. So I am proud of that, too."
Whitehurst, heading into his 10th NFL season, is a bit of a survivor. A third-round draft pick by the Chargers in 2006, Whitehurst has managed to stick around despite playing in just 20 career games. He got his most extensive playing time a year ago with the Titans, when he played in a career-high seven games – with a career-high five starts. Whitehurst set career-highs in passing yards (1,326), attempts (185), completions (105) and touchdowns (seven) as he was called upon during a season when Jake Locker had trouble staying healthy and Zach Mettenberger was in and out of the lineup in the second half of the season.
This year, Whitehurst is in a unique situation, sharing the same room with a pair of especially young quarterbacks in rookie Marcus Mariota and Mettenberger, who's in his second NFL season. Alex Tanney, in his second NFL season, is also with the Titans in camp. Mariota was just 13 years old when Whitehurst arrived in the NFL.
The Titans have indicated they'll likely keep three quarterbacks on the roster, but barring injuries, Whitehurst probably won't play this season. But Whitehurst said his approach is the same as it was all those years in San Diego, when he backed up Philip Rivers and didn't throw a pass in six seasons with the team. Whitehurst spent two seasons in Seattle, when he played in nine games and logged four starts in 2010-11.
"I have been a back-up most my career, and I have approached it like you're close to playing every year. That's the simple way to do it, you have to go out there be prepared to play,'' Whitehurst said.
"My approach is more or less the same. You try and go in there and do your best every day. Last year with the new offense I think I had some responsibilities with trying to teach and that's not really the case as much this year…The most important thing is to take care of your business."
Whitehurst said he's been impressed with the young quarterbacks, and said he's more than willing to help them.
"If I can offer something to them, great, but they have taken ownership of their own game, no doubt about it,'' Whitehurst said. "Zach has done a good job the two years I've been around him and Marcus has come in and acted like you're supposed to act. I have been impressed with his approach to the game, and Alex the same way.
"At this point we are supporting Marcus but making sure we are all ready to play of our name is called."
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, who served as Whitehurst's offensive coordinator in San Diego in 2013 before the two were reunited in Tennessee, said Whitehurst has value to a team with young quarterbacks, who have a combined six starts between them.
Mariota, the second overall pick of the NFL Draft, will make his preseason debut on Friday in Atlanta.
"I think Charlie has good value. He has seen a lot, so they can talk about things and that is an important dynamic,'' Whisenhunt said. "I think that is an underrated part of that position, especially when you have two young guys. I think Charlie has done a good job for us and I like what he is doing in that role.
"Let's face it, the important thing is getting Marcus and Zach reps. But Charlie understands what his role is and he's done a good job with that, and if he has to play he'll do a good job."
Whitehurst, whose contract expires after the season, said being around the younger guys helps keep him feeling young himself. During the offseason, Whitehurst went to France to see the French Riviera, and he bought himself a boat – an 85 Ski Nautique – in Atlanta.
In practices, he prefers to wear an older, faded red jersey instead of the new, bright red uniform he was given by the team's equipment managers. It's all about comfort, he said.
Surrounded by 20-something teammates, Whitehurst said he still loves the game.
So, might he stick around until he's 40?
"I would assume they are going to ask me to leave the game before I would ever say that,'' he said with a smile. "But I would love to play as long as I can."