Tennessee Titans Michael Roos (71), Michael Otto (66), Jurrell Casey (99) and William Hayes (95) stand in the tunnel before the NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
By Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press
NASHVILLE — Matt Hasselbeck was among the Tennessee Titans thankful for Tuesday's practice, after which they were let loose for a five-day break during their bye week.
"If we didn't have today's practice, I think we would've left with kind of a sour taste in our mouth," the quarterback said in reference to Sunday's 38-17 loss at Pittsburgh.
Before the Titans left, they looked at fixing mistakes, most notably in the running game. The Titans (3-2) are tied atop the AFC South despite ranking last in the NFL in yards-rushing average (66.6 per game), and Chris Johnson won't be able to blame rustiness from his contract holdout much longer. The man with the $53 million extension is off to the worst start of his career with a mere 250 yards on 83 carries, though he finally is up to averaging 3 yards per carry.
The Titans watched video and made corrections Monday, then hit the field for a 90-minute session Tuesday.
"Today was an opportunity to go out and play ones versus ones, Titans on Titans, and just compete a little bit," Hasselbeck said. "And so I think we're leaving here with that feeling in our mind, and it's a good feeling. We had a good day. We got a lot of good work in today -- got some great workouts in the weight room also."
Coach Mike Munchak thinks it's a good time for the week off.
"It's the first time we have had a break in the last 12 or 13 weeks to this extent," he said. "And since the lockout, it's been all about football and learning and getting to know coaches and players, and a lot has happened in the past so many months."
The Titans are due back Monday to prepare for a divisional showdown with Houston. Some players will be sticking around, including receiver Kenny Britt, who had surgery to repair his torn right ACL and MCL at the end of last week. Munchak said Britt came to the team building Tuesday and believes the receiver will be doing his rehab in Nashville.
Tight end Craig Stevens still has some sore ribs that limited him in the loss at Pittsburgh, and rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy hurt a hamstring. Munchak said McCarthy may be limited when the team returns Monday.
In the players' absence, Munchak and his coaches will be self-scouting now that they finally have video of the Titans running the offense and defense installed during training camp after the lockout ended. They will be looking for what they can tweak to get Johnson back on track and improve a defense that is allowing opponents to convert 46.7 percent of third downs.
Munchak wants to clean up penalties. The Titans have been flagged 38 times for 325 yards, and Munchak said his players are still making some bad decisions under stress.
"When we are in stressful spots, we are still getting called for too many penalties, and throughout games you just can't have them," he said. "Those are things that you have to continue to work on and control during the game as best you can. Some of those things you can't control because officials see it one way and you see it another, but for some reason when they go against you, we seem to have that happen to us a little too much."
Hasselbeck said he expects the coaches to put them through a hard week of practice when they return.
"Because of the loss to Pittsburgh, I think that it gives the coaching staff a great opportunity to not let things slide," Hasselbeck said. "And I think sometimes when you are winning games as a player it's easy to just feel subconsciously, 'Hey, it's OK. We're winning. It's OK. We're winning.' But this definitely, just like the Jacksonville loss gave us an opportunity, really gave the coaching staff an opportunity to really be tough on us, tougher on us than usual."
As for this weekend, Hasselbeck plans to watch NFL games on television.
"I'm looking forward to watching other quarterbacks get hit on Sunday," he said.