NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Titans haven’t seen much of rookie quarterback Jake Locker. That’s not stopping his new teammates from thinking the eighth pick overall could be their starter whenever the NFL starts playing again.
Locker worked out with his new teammates Thursday in a second straight player-organized minicamp at a local high school as the NFL lockout continues. He’s made a sizeable impression on Tennessee veterans in just two days, including Thursday when he completed 8 of 12 passes.
“He is a great football player. I can see it already,” Titans left guard Leroy Harris said. “The sooner we get back to practices, he is going to become the overall leader. I think physically he is ready (to start). All he has to do is make sure he learns the plays. He has all the tools to be our franchise quarterback.”
The 6-foot-3, 231-pound Locker spoke with reporters Wednesday but politely declined to talk Thursday when about 40 Titans worked out for nearly two hours at Father Ryan High.
Locker has spent the last 10 days in Nashville staying with wide receiver Damian Williams and working out at local high school and college fields. Locker was expected to return to his home state of Washington later in the day.
Most of Locker’s passes were quick, short tosses. When he went downfield a couple of times, the passes were incomplete. His second throw of more than 20 yards went high and deflected off Williams’ hands as the receiver going into his second year as a pro took the blame for dropping the pass.
While praise was high for Locker, veteran wide receiver Nate Washington was a little more hesitant in his evaluation.
“He has a nice arm on him, but it will be a different story when the coaches get out here, critiquing, get him going about it,” Washington said.
“Then that is when we will really be able to assess him. I don’t really think you can step out here on this little practice and know whether he is going to be the greatest or not going to be good at all. The best thing we have with Jake is the mindset that he is comfortable with us. He is coming in here knowing that he is supposed to be here.”
Locker, Rusty Smith and Brett Ratliff all took snaps. Smith will enter his second year with the team, and the sixth-round pick is the only other quarterback on the roster with Locker.
The Titans plan to cut ties with Vince Young once the lockout concludes either by trading him or simply releasing him.
Veteran Kerry Collins could return to help mentor Locker, but retirement after 17 seasons may be a stronger option for the 38-year-old veteran.
“It is my job to help this team get better,” Smith said. “If that means helping Jake get better so he can be ready whenever the season comes, that is my role. But don’t think for a second I’m not going to try to get the starting job. I’m not one of those guys who is going to be bitter about the situation. I’m very happy to be playing football for my job.”