KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Natural grass
TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts)
PREDICTION: Titans 23-14
KEYS TO THE GAME: Uncertainty permeates both offenses. With Luke McCown named the Jaguars' starting quarterback five days before the season opener and Matt Hasselbeck still getting a grasp on the Titans' playbook, both teams would typically turn the keys over to their elite running backs. Problem is, Maurice Jones-Drew had five preseason carries for Jacksonville while rehabbing a knee injury and Tennessee's Chris Johnson missed the entire exhibition slate in a holdout.
FAST FACTS: The Titans' Mike Munchak is the 12th Hall of Fame player since 1970 to serve as a head coach. ... Jack Del Rio is the first coach in NFL history to enter his ninth season without a division title on his resume.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Tennessee Titans could find themselves short-handed at a couple of positions heading into the opening weekend of the NFL season.
No sooner do the Titans get running back Chris Johnson back into the fold, than his backup Javon Ringer looks like a potential no-go for the game in Jacksonville. Ringer has been out since the preseason game in St. Louis with a hip pointer, an issue that the Titans thought would have been over long ago. But after returning to practice over the weekend, Ringer has developed a back issue that threatens to sideline him for the opener.
"I don't know if it's from favoring the hip that's going to the back. You're hoping it's that, so it's not really long term and it's something that he bounces back pretty quickly after he gets some treatment," coach Mike Munchak said.
If Ringer is unable to go, it is unlikely the Titans would make a roster move immediately. They would fold the handful of carries Ringer would get into more for Johnson and/or rookie Jamie Harper.
The other issue is at defensive end where Jason Jones played only in limited fashion as he tries to make his way back from a knee sprain. With Derrick Morgan already out with a knee injury, the Titans have only Dave Ball and William Hayes at end for the opener. Also, they will use Malcolm Sheppard there as well if need be.
"I'm doing everything I can to get ready. Right now, I feel no pain. It feels great. It's really a four-week injury and I feel good at three weeks," Jones said.
Still, he is not a certainty to play, adding, "If I could sit one to be healthy for 15, I think I'd be good."
The Jaguars' decision to cut quarterback David Garrard on Tuesday continues to overshadow the team's opening game Sunday with the Tennessee Titans.
On Thursday, Jaguars general manager Gene Smith weighed in and took responsibility for the decision.
"Ultimately, it was my decision," Smith said in an email Thursday morning to the Florida Times-Union.
Smith has the authority to make all the personnel decisions for the Jaguars.
But even though he feels it was the right decision for the organization, he doesn't think the timing was handled well.
"I'll admit the timing was poor due to the kickoff event being on the same day as the 4 p.m. league deadline," he said.
Smith was so focused on making the decision by the 4 p.m. Tuesday league deadline for roster moves that he didn't realize the perception that would be created by cutting Garrard after he was introduced at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
"Clearly, I'm not proud of how things played out on Tuesday and our players deserve better," he said.
He said the decision was finalized at about 10:40 a.m. Tuesday in a meeting with coach Jack Del Rio and owner Wayne Weaver and he had a speaking engagement at 11:00 a.m. and the luncheon began at noon.
"I endorsed having David participate in the event due to the time constraints and circumstance, and it was my feeling that David would in essence be given one last moment or event to share with his teammates. It was not my intent to be insensitive to a man and a family I have great admiration for. Immediately after the event Jack and I (and then Wayne) sat down with David to discuss the decision that was made in the best interest of the team," he said.
He added, "As it relates to the kickoff event or really any of the events that took place on Tuesday, I take full responsibility. Obviously it would have been easier and would have made the release seamless had we done it over the weekend. I kept an open mind to making the final decision on the QB position until Tuesday, so if keeping an open mind and being dilatory in the process is a mistake, than I made a mistake," he said.
In waiting until the last possible day to make the decision on Garrard, Smith said, "Good leaders need to be decisive in their decision-making but they also need to be right. We owed that to our team and to David Garrard, someone with over 75 starts through his nine-year Jaguar career, and at a position that impacts winning the most."
In a meeting with reporters, he was lavish in his praise of Garrard as a man.
"We all know this. He's a tremendous human being how he's handled everything in his life. Look at how he was drafted (2002). He was going to be the guy after (Mark) Brunell. Then we drafted Byron (Leftwich) and how he handled that as a man. There are so many things in his life (including dealing with Crohn's disease) he's dealt with in such an exceptional way. I think he's taught a lot of people in this city how to be a man, how to handle adversity," he said.
Smith also said that while Garrard didn't have a good practice Monday, the decision was made on his full body of work throughout training camp, not on that one practice.
He said they put a lot of emphasis on scouting their own team and that the scouts grade every player every day in practice.
He said that Luke McCown clearly outplayed Garrard during training camp.
--RB Jamie Harper could be the beneficiary of Javon Ringer's potential absence from Sunday's game. The rookie looked good in preseason and could spell Chris Johnson in the opener. Harper is more of the true change-of-pace back anyway, as he is a downhill runner, not a cutback runner like Ringer.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck said he is still getting on the same page with Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt, and hopes the Titans can win games as they get comfortable with each other. The one weapon Hasselbeck has had the most time with is tight end Jared Cook.
--LB Gerald McRath won't start in the base package the Titans have on defense, but will come onto the field to play in nickel situations on defense. The Titans are trying to take advantage of McRath's speed in passing situations.
--K Rob Bironas wasn't as accurate in preseason as usual, missing three field-goal attempts. However, the Titans are not concerned, given that Bironas has been near 90 percent in his accuracy in recent years.
--DE Malcolm Sheppard may have been a surprise to make the 53-man roster, but his versatility is one reason. The Titans will use Sheppard as an end while Jason Jones and Derrick Morgan are ailing, and might even keep him there once they return, given that they are already loaded with five defensive tackles in addition to Sheppard.
--OT Eben Britton was limited in practice for the second consecutive day Thursday with a back injury and probably won't play Sunday.
--DE Aaron Kampman, recovering from his second ACL injury in as many years, was limited for the second consecutive day Thursday but still hopes to play.
--TE Zach Miller was limited with a knee injury Thursday after not practicing Wednesday. He may not play.
--DT Tyson Alualu had a full practice Thursday after being limited for non-injury reasons Wednesday.
--FB Greg Jones had a full practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday for non-injury reasons.
--RB Maurice Jones-Drew had a full practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday for non injury reason.
--CB Rashean Mathis had a full practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday for non-injury reason.
Titans- Jags Game Snapshot
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