Locker carrying himself a bit differently

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In his practice performance, in his interactions with teammates and in his conversations with the media, Jake Locker is showing growth, I believe.

In a make-or-break season that tells whether he is the answer for the Tennessee Titans going forward or not, he was asked early on about shooting for a big contract. He is set for life with what he has already made, he said, matter of factly.

And his teammates are talking about him with higher regard.

“In this business you don’t come in and get respect given to you, you have to earn it,” receiver Marc Mariani said. “And he’s done that. We all saw what he went through and the season that he had last year and that injury he came back from. He’s earned the respect of everyone in here.

“I think we’re the type of team, not that we need it, but is looking for that guy to be more vocal and get on his back. And Jake’s the perfect guy, and I have all the faith in the world in that guy and I know he’s going to come through. He’s a warrior.”

Locker isn’t the kind of guy who is going to announce that the Tennessee Titans are his team or hit anyone over the head with any sort of message. But in his low-key, hard-working way and with perseverance through three serious injuries over the past two seasons, he’s gained more respect and command.

“I don’t believe it’s not any one guy’s team, ever,” Locker said. "I think the greatest teams have a lot of guys that are respected in the locker room. And I feel like we have that. We have guys that are respected a lot of different ways in a lot of different positions.

“Since the time I came in here I’ve said I just want to work hard and have the respect of my teammates, so it’s awesome for me to hear that they are feeling that way.”

Head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he’s seen “really good growth” out of Locker.

There is a good deal to sort through at this stage, and Locker's coach likes how he’s doing it so far.

“This is probably, for a quarterback, the toughest time of the year,” Whisenhunt said in a Monday interview with my radio show, The Midday 180 in Nashville. “Really there is no set plan for what we are calling things from. In a weekly game-plan situation you have X number of plays and you know the formations. When you get them on Monday night and start working on them on Tuesday, by Wednesday you have a good idea, we’re running a certain play, what formation it’s going to be run from.

“In this situation, we’re switching guys. We’re putting Kendall (Wright) and Nate (Washington) and Justin (Hunter) in different spots, so when you do that you have to name the formations differently and it’s much harder to get a mental picture of the actual play when you’re doing those mental gymnastics.

“On top of that, he’s got to be able to call the play, understand the protections, be ready to change it. So you don’t expect him to have great command of it, but he’s really working at it and doing a nice job.”