By Tim Graham
The Tennessee Titans want Ryan Fitzpatrick to be a backup, but they realize they might have to play him if starting quarterback Jake Locker, vulnerable on the run, gets banged up.
"I think he understands his role," Titans coach Mike Munchak said today of Fitzpatrick, the former Buffalo Bills starter. "We made a decision last year after training camp that Jake's going into camp and our OTAs knowing that he's the quarterback."
Locker, the eighth pick in the 2011 draft, started 11 games for the Titans last year. He missed five with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder.
In his place, veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck went 2-3, including a last-minute victory over the Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Hasselbeck declined to reduce his $5.5 million base salary for the upcoming season and got cut Monday. The Titans quickly signed Fitzpatrick, whom the Bills released for similar reasons last week.
Locker has "got to stay healthy," Munchak said. "That was probably the biggest problem last year. It was hard to judge him.
"Ryan will know his role. Ryan's been in this situation before. He knows that Jake is going to be the guy. [Fitzpatrick] is going to be the No. 2. He's going to compete with him and help him a lot throughout the week. He's been in the league. He's been through the ups and downs of the NFL. He can win if he has to play.
"That's how we felt with Matt Hasselbeck also. Unfortunately, we have a quarterback who runs around a little bit. So there's a chance that that second quarterback is going to play a lot."