Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 8/6/12
DALTON, Ga. -- When the Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers to become Brett Favre's successor, Favre famously didn't handle it so well -- or, at the very least, he didn't look at the situation as a mentoring opportunity. Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker's competition for the Tennessee Titans' starting quarterback job couldn't stand in any starker contrast. On Monday in a combined practice with the Falcons at Coahulla Creek High School, roughly halfway between each team's practice facility, Hasselbeck and Locker took their turns trying to put their best figurative foot forward, as they have since camp opened, in one of the league's few, but perhaps most competitive, battles at that most important of positions. Hasselbeck, 36, the incumbent starter and a 14-year veteran who once guided Seattle to a Super Bowl berth, was asked the last time he faced a challenge of this nature but, with yearly competition in the NFL being what it is, he said it doesn't feel any different. "I feel like it's been every year, really," he said. "The only difference is talking about it so much. Even last year we talked a little bit about it. The year before with Charlie Whitehurst getting traded to Seattle, that was kind of a big deal and we were talking about it. "Early in my career, we weren't talking about fighting for a starting job, we were talking about fighting for a roster spot. It just comes with the position. There's only 32 of these in the world. Every year you got to play your best and hope you're one of those 32." When he was fighting for a roster spot, he was deep on the depth chart behind Favre with Green Bay. Rather than take on Favre's loner-ish style, Hasselbeck has struck a more nurturing pose with Locker, the team's first-round pick last year. "We've got a great relationship," Hasselbeck said. "Our relationship really couldn't be much better. It's really, really good and I think it's good for all of the guys on our team to see a healthy way to compete. You're competing as hard as you can, but you're also helping the teammate you're competing with and cheering for him and being unselfish. I think it's a real healthy thing for our team." Apparently, those comments are not just window dressing. Locker was specific in talking about how Hasselbeck has helped him in saying that Hasselbeck is "so great at sharing" his 15 years of knowledge with him. "So it's the little intricacies of the game like the snap count," Locker said. "The little things in between plays you pick up on, listening to a defense when they're talking. They can tip you off to certain things. Those are things that, for me, it would've taken me longer to learn." Locker essentially agreed with Hasselbeck that the competition doesn't feel any different from last year, but that seems a little bit hard to believe -- for both. "No, no, I think you're always trying to compete for a job whether it's announced or not," Locker said. "I think that's the nature of this business, the nature of this game and that's how we'll both go about it." There was no game-planning for Monday's session, but both Hasselbeck and head coach Mike Munchak said the quarterback race benefitted from going against different players for the first time since camp began on Aug. 28. Hasselbeck said the Titans defense doesn't play as much man coverage and doesn't play receivers as physically at the line of scrimmage as the Falcons did under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Munchak said the practice also forced quicker decisions by the quarterbacks. "I think it just creates a different atmosphere, a different situation," Munchak said. "A lot of times, they determine where they're going to go by who they're going to go after: what corner, what safety; whereas here, they don't know these guys as well. So I think that just made it another element that they have not been part of for a while and that will change when we go up to Seattle" for the Titans' preseason opener on Saturday. He also said the quarterbacks were finding receivers more open, as Titans defensive backs are quicker to jump routes in practice, as they become so familiar with the plays they see on a daily basis. However it turns out, the head coach likes how things are shaping up. "They were competing," Munchak said. "Again, I think they were put in some tough spots with some of the guys they were playing with. (Starting right tackle Dave) Stewart didn't make the trip. We only have 11 linemen. We got some young guys that are trying to help them so maybe (more) pressure at times when some of them are in there. Just a lot of factors, but just overall we're happy with both of them and, like, I said we feel we have two good quarterbacks that love competing, they run the team. I think the tempo is great with both of them. So I think it's just fun to watch them compete, how they handle the whole thing."
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