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Locker, Hasselbeck ready to compete for QB spot in Tennessee

Thu., Aug. 4, 2011, midnight

There will come a time when circumstance tries to pit them against each.

When the Tennessee Titans fans flock into Nashville’s LP Stadium to watch a football game, they’ll grumble about how the veteran is standing in the way of The Next Big Thing’s path to stardom. Or how the Titans would be more competitive with the experienced quarterback in the huddle and the rookie on the sidelines.

All that comes later. For now, the budding relationship between former Seattle sports centerpieces Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker can be summarized in a single word.

“It’s been fun,” Locker said of having Hasselbeck in meeting rooms since the veteran signed on to join him as a Titans quarterback. “We have fun in the meetings, in between the meetings. He keeps it light.”

A relationship that began with admiration from afar – albeit, not that far – has blossomed into a friendship. But it took 2,400 miles, and $33 million over a pair of contracts, for the two quarterbacks to finally be side-by-side in the same meeting room.

“There’s immediately trust and respect there,” Hasselbeck said when asked about Locker during his initial press conference in Nashville on Saturday. “It’s not like we’re best friends from high school, but we’ve got a lot of the same mutual friends. I certainly respect who he is and what he’s all about and his professionalism.

“I just think there’s a mutual respect there. He’s a great kid; he’s easy to get along with.”

Beginning today, they’ll start practicing alongside each other and compete for the same starting job.

Hasselbeck, who spent the past 11 seasons playing quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, and Locker, who recently finished up a four-year career at the University of Washington, have been well aware of each other for a while. But they didn’t meet until the spring, when some Seahawks players worked out at UW.

That first meeting set in motion a few future throwing sessions between the two quarterbacks at UW. Locker said they never talked about the possibility of one day playing together, and yet that’s exactly what is about to happen.

Hasselbeck has been in Nashville since Saturday. By NFL rules he has not been allowed to begin practicing with the Titans until today. Locker has taken most of the snaps with the first team over the past few days, but Hasselbeck’s addition to practices means the battle for a starting job officially begins today.

Locker shrugged off the possibility of competition putting a strain on their relationship.

“As far as I’m concerned, we both want to go out and help the team win,” he said this week. “The decision is not ours, so we’ll both do the best we can in practice and on the field and see what happens.”

Notes

The Seahawks signed Jeff Reed Wednesday, bringing in an experienced kicker to replace Olindo Mare, who signed with Carolina last week. Rookie kicker Wes Byrum, who signed last week as an undrafted free agent, has been released. Reed’s competition for the kicking job is currently Brandon Coutu, who spent the 2008 season on Seattle’s roster, but did not play.

Two new additions are undrafted rookie running back Chase Reynolds, who starred at Montana, and linebacker Michael Johnson, who played at North Alabama and was signed last year by Kansas City as an undrafted free agent. Seattle released DT Ladi Ajiboye, G Michael Huey, QB Zac Lee and, LB Blake Sorensen.



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