NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger is doubtful against the New York Jets after aggravating his sprained right shoulder, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said there is a “legitimate chance” Mettenberger plays again this season.
Whisenhunt said Monday that he’s hopeful the former LSU standout will be back this year, and the rookie will be on a week-to-week basis with three games left.
“I’m not going to rule him out until I know for sure that he can’t go,” Whisenhunt said. “I said that he was doubtful he would go this week. But we’ll see as it progresses.”
Seeing how the rookie responds is key for a franchise that needs to see if Mettenberger can be their starter in 2015. Mettenberger originally sprained his shoulder Nov. 30 in a loss at Houston, but he started Sunday against the New York Giants. He hurt his shoulder again at 10:41 of the fourth quarter when sacked for the fifth time in a 36-7 loss.
Whisenhunt said he should have done a better job of not letting Mettenberger aggravate the injury in a game in which the Titans played without three starting offensive linemen.
“Going forward, I think we are going to be conservative with it to a certain degree, but I think also it’s important that he stays in it and tries to get back,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s an important piece of it. I mean there’s a legitimate chance he plays again for us this year. If he has that and he’s healthy, we would like to see that.”
Jake Locker is expected to start if Mettenberger is out. The veteran in the final year of his contract was benched in October coming off an injured hand with Mettenberger starting the past six games.
“It’s an opportunity to play, Jake wants that,” Whisenhunt said.
“Prepare it the best he can and do the best job he can. I think that’s the way he’ll look at it. He’s a good pro.”
Mettenberger was limited in practice all last week with his original sprained shoulder, and returning could be difficult. The Titans (2-11) host the Jets (2-11) on Sunday, then have a short turnaround before visiting Jacksonville (2-11) on Dec. 18.
That leaves the season finale hosting Indianapolis (9-4) on Dec. 28 for a team already with 10 players on injured reserve, including six starters. But Whisenhunt said he hopes left tackle Taylor Lewan and right tackle Michael Oher, who have missed two straight games with injuries, could return. Oher is getting his sore left toe checked again Tuesday.
Whisenhunt said Mettenberger, who had an MRI exam earlier Monday, was pretty sore.
“I know he wants to get back and play,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ll see as it goes.”
Notes: S Michael Griffin was using crutches in the locker room Monday for a sore back he hurt on the opening drive of the game. But Griffin said he will play against the Jets and former teammate Chris Johnson. CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who dislocated his left shoulder against the Giants, was wearing a sling Monday. S Daimion Stafford is in the concussion protocol.