Jim Wyatt / The Tennessean
When doctors presented Jake Locker with a timetable for recovery from his foot surgery, the Titans quarterback listened.
Then he challenged himself to get back on the field sooner than anyone expected. Heading into a critical season, the fourth-year pro knew it was important to see as much action as possible in a new offense under a new coaching staff.
Yet he also wanted to do it for his teammates.
"I want the guys on the team to know that it means something to me, and that I am going to do everything I can to be in the field," Locker said. "… Hopefully it helps to create a culture that we're all going to try and work that way."
As the Titans kicked off organized team activities on Tuesday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, Locker took part in team drills for the first time since November, when he had surgery on his right foot to repair a Lisfranc injury.
Locker, who took part in individual drills during a minicamp in April and was cleared for more activity, is ahead of schedule in his recovery. The Titans initially believed he wouldn't be this far along until late June.
On Tuesday, he moved reasonably well, although he appeared to maneuver with a slight limp during the portion of practice open to media. Teammates later said his passes were on target – as was the message he sent by participating in practice.
"It's always good to see your starting quarterback out there, running the offense," tight end Delanie Walker said. "But it didn't surprise me. That is Jake. He's a fighter, he is going to compete. He is a leader and that shows leadership."
Barring a setback, the Titans plan on Locker being the starter in the season opener on Sept. 7 at Kansas City. There are nine more OTA sessions before training camp begins in late July.
"I think that people heal differently," Locker said. "Some people heal faster, slower, whatever it is. I take pride in the fact that I'm going to do everything I can to exceed expectations. My goal was to be back out here as quickly as I can. … I felt really good. It felt good moving around."
With a new offense expected to feature more downfield passing, the Titans need Locker at his best and his healthiest. He missed 14 of a potential 32 starts over the past two seasons because of injuries.
Locker is still getting comfortable with the new offense, his new coaches and his new teammates. The quarterbacks room alone has two new faces in veteran Charlie Whitehurst and rookie Zach Mettenberger. There's also Tyler Wilson, who signed with the Titans late last season but did not see any action.
Mettenberger, a former LSU star, was a highly-touted prospect going into the NFL Draft last month, but a knee injury and some off-field red flags left him available to the Titans in the sixth round.
It didn't sound as if Mettenberger's presence threatened Locker, who said he would help the rookie as much as possible.