NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans' first-team offense repeatedly broke the huddle with 12 men Friday.
Instead of jogging to the line of scrimmage and running a route, Nate Washington strolled back behind the line of scrimmage and observed without his helmet. Washington, Tennessee's leading receiver with 53 catches for 668 yards, suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday in a 23-17 win at Buffalo. He wants to return this Sunday, but his progress between now and then will be the determining factor.
Washington's done rehab work this week, studied and gotten as close to the action as possible this week to best prepare for this Sunday when New Orleans (9-3) visits Tennessee (7-5) at LP Field.
"I wanted to hear the huddle calls instead of just reading it off the paper, so that's why I was in the huddle," Washington said. "I felt good today. Still a little pain, but at the same time it's a progression. I'm right where I'm supposed to be."
Titans coach Mike Munchak said Washington will be listed as questionable and be a game-time decision after he's evaluated in warm-ups Sunday morning. The player, coach and training staff will combine to make the most prudent, least emotional decision possible. It will be based on how effective Washington can be and the risk of worsening the injury and making a bigger problem that jeopardizes the rest of the season.
"The realistic side of me thinks about (the rest of the season), but the competitor always takes over," Washington said. "I believe so much in their ability that I don't want to be the guy slowing them down."
"If this was an individual decision on my part, of course I'm playing," Washington added. "Coach Munchak is going to be very observant of my ankle and he's going to make the right decision. I believe highly in his decisions. If I'm a cheerleader, I'll be the best cheerleader, but if I'm in the game, I'll give these guys everything I've got."
Munchak said Washington has done a good job working with Marc Mariani, who would move up the depth chart, and other Titans receivers and of doing the mental preparations.
"He's fully engaged, but as far as practice tempo, no," Munchak said.
EVALUATION OF MCCOURTY CONTINUES:Munchak said cornerback Jason McCourty, who suffered a concussion at Buffalo Sunday, remains under evaluation and will also be a game-time decision.
Munchak said McCourty needed to have an evaluation by a doctor who is not on the Titans' medical staff to receive final clearance, and if he doesn't pass the concussion test, he will be out.
"That's out of our hands," Munchak said. "It's not like it's something that you can look at and say, 'He looks pretty good,' because he can look good and feel good."
McCourty, who leads the Titans with two interceptions this season, said he never experienced dizziness and felt like all the symptoms had cleared.
"I've been in every meeting and watching film and doing all that stuff off the field. I feel fine," McCourty said Friday. "Nothing's bothering me. I'm back to normal."
If McCourty can't go, it's likely that the Titans will again call upon Chris Hawkins, who filled in for McCourty after the injury in Buffalo. McCourty said the members of the Titans' secondary have faith in each other and can communicate well together.
"I think among our secondary, none of us are afraid to say to each other, 'Work on this' or 'Look for that,' or something like that," McCourty said. "He's fully capable of getting it done."
TURNOVERS AFFECT SAINTS ON ROAD: New Orleans is undefeated at home this season but 3-3 on the road. The Saints have lost the turnover margin stat category in all three of their losses. They are minus-six in the category on the road and plus-four in the category at home.
Tennessee is plus-three on the road and plus-two at home this season. The Titans have forced seven turnovers in the past two games and are tied for sixth in the NFL in turnover margin.
Munchak said it's difficult to explain why the Saints have committed more turnovers on the road, but he hopes the pattern continues.
"I hope they have more of them," Munchak said. "I hope we can create them. I hope our crowd can help us get that going in the game. When you beat a good team, it's usually because you can get the ball off them, and we're going to need to do that for sure."