NASHVILLE, Tenn. — 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," Hasselbeck said of a 38-17 loss at Pittsburgh last weekend.
Before they left, they looked at fixing mistakes with the running game at the top. The Titans (3-2) are tied atop the AFC South despite ranking last in the NFL in yards rushing averaging (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 3.0 yards per carry.
The Titans watched film 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, 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," Munchak said.
The Titans are due back Monday to prepare for Houston, a divisional showdown, after getting the break under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Some players will be sticking around like 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 film 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 as the running back who ran for more yards over the past three seasons 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 already 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."
Some Titans left Nashville almost immediately with rookie linebacker Akeem Ayers tweeting he was on his way to Los Angeles, while Johnson wanted to know who is in Orlando where he spends most of his offseasons. Left tackle Michael Roos will be going back to watch Eastern Washington play this weekend.
Hasselbeck has his own plan set for Sunday watching NFL games.
"I'm looking forward to watching other quarterbacks get hit on Sunday," he said.