By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Matt Hasselbeck is back practicing, and the Tennessee Titans are expecting the veteran quarterback to start Sunday when they visit the winless Colts.
Barring a setback.
"If he's not feeling he can do things, he'll be honest with us," Titans coach Mike Munchak said Thursday. "He knows we want to win. He wants to start, and we want him to start. If for some reason he's not at his best, we'll rethink the position. Right now we're all thinking positively that he's going to be the starter."
Hasselbeck hurt his left calf early in last week's 22-17 loss to New Orleans. He had an MRI on Monday and watched practice Wednesday as part of a plan put together by doctors and trainers to work him back onto the field. Hasselbeck was limited Thursday, but he did warm up and practice some handoffs while throwing only out of the shotgun.
The 13-year veteran hasn't missed a start this season since signing a three-year contract with Tennessee. He said his calf feels good, and he'll be in by 6:30 a.m. Friday morning for more tests just like a handful of other players. Hasselbeck thinks only his scrambling would be most affected and thinks the timing is fine against the Colts considering the speedy Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.
"I don't think I was going to outrun Freeney or Mathis," Hasselbeck said.
"You're definitely more of a sitting duck, but you can throw the ball, which is nice. Even the last time we played them, I don't know how many sacks we had, if we had any. If you get the ball out quick, it doesn't really matter."
Hasselbeck was sacked once Oct. 30 in a 27-10 win over Indianapolis in Nashville. But he is a big reason why the Titans (7-6) go into their final three games needing to win all three and get some help to land the AFC's final wild-card spot in Munchak's first season as head coach.
Hasselbeck ranks fifth among the NFL's active career passing leaders with 32,280 yards, and he's completing 61 percent of his passes this season for 2,701 yards with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with Kenny Britt sidelined since September by a torn ACL.
Rookie Jake Locker, who practiced Thursday after being limited Wednesday because of sore ribs, threw for 282 yards coming off the bench against the Saints. He was the eighth pick overall in April, and Munchak said they feel comfortable either way. But Hasselbeck is the preferred starter.
"I don't think reps are as important as how he's feeling," Munchak said of Hasselbeck being limited at practice.
Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has some plays ready that better suit Hasselbeck and others better for the very mobile Locker. The rookie ran for 36 yards against the Saints.
Locker said the Titans still have three more days until the game.
"Matt's a tough guy. He's played through a lot of stuff in his career and this year. I know if he can be out there, he will," Locker said.
Notes: WR Nate Washington (left ankle) missed his second straight practice after having a career-high 130 yards receiving last week. Munchak said he expects Washington to practice Friday. ... RB Javon Ringer remains out with a broken right hand but will get the cast off his hand Monday. LB Patrick Bailey (hamstring), DE William Hayes (groin) and LB Gerald McRath (left knee/ankle). ... DE Dave Ball and rookie offensive lineman Byron Stingily had a couple fights in practice Thursday. Munchak said it was two unlikely combatants with Ball getting mad at something, while Stingily is showing more personality over the past month.
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