NASHVILLE — Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck spent much of his Thursday morning media session disputing the notion that he had no chance to compete with younger Jake Locker if his coaches decide it's important for their quarterback to run the football.
"You make it a five-mile race and I might catch him," the 37-year-old Hasselbeck said of the 24-year-old Locker. "Maybe."
But while the biggest question surrounding the Titans may be whether second-year head coach Mike Munchak decides to run his offense through the wily veteran Hasselbeck or the gifted second-year pro, at least whoever eventually gets that nod will have first-round draft pick Kendall Wright for a target.
The No. 20 overall pick in April's draft, Wright signed a four-year, $8.2 million contract with the club Wednesday, then participated in Thursday's early workout. He'll don pads for the first time Saturday.
"I am just going to do what the team drafted me to do, and that is to come play receiver and come make plays," the Baylor University standout told reporters. "I don't think there's a lot of pressure on me. I am just out here learning what I have to do to get ready for the season."
The Titans are not solely relying on Wright to improve their receiving corps.
The organization inked tight end Joey Haynos and wide receiver Marcus Harris on Thursday. The 6-foot-8, 270-pound Haynos spent the last two seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Harris spent time on the Detroit Lions' practice squad last year.
With expected go-to receiver Kenny Britt in limbo both for his injured knees and a recent DUI charge at Fort Campbell, all three may be needed quickly.
Wright's career collegiate stats — 302 receptions, 4,004 yards, 30 touchdowns — suggest that he's up to the challenge, and Titans defensive back Jason McCourty has been impressed with his work in shorts.
"He's very explosive," McCourty said. "He gets down the field in a hurry, and when you have that type of speed and quickness it's definitely going to be a huge option and huge asset to our offense."
And it probably will be, though Hasselbeck doesn't seem quite as ready to rely on Wright to make the difference in the season opener against visiting New England on Sept. 9.
"My experience has been that some guys look really good before the pads come on, and then once the pads come on, they look different," Hasselbeck said. "But every indication would be that he's going to play better, not worse, with shoulder pads on ... with contact, just based on the film and just a gut feel from being around the guy."
Which is another way of saying that Hasselbeck has no intention of challenging Wright to a foot race at any distance.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...