Losers of 8 of last 9, interim coach Mularkey says Titans, coaches want W even more than fans

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The Tennessee Titans returned to work Monday closer to the top pick in the NFL draft than the lead in their own division.

But interim coach Mike Mularkey is asking fans to stick with the team.

"We are not giving in by any means," Mularkey said. "There has been no sign of that. We need their support. They've got a team that wants to win worse than they do and a staff that does too, so we'll represent this city and this organization, I can promise you as well as we can."

It sounds good, but Mularkey's passion hasn't translated into wins. The Titans (2-8) currently are tied with San Diego and Cleveland for the worst record in the league.

They have lost eight of their last nine with a home skid that's already reached 10 straight and inching closer to the league's worst in that woeful category.

Four of their losses have been by a combined 12 points, including a 19-13 loss at Jacksonville last Thursday night.

They're already are on their second coach this season with speculation for the future wide open. It's created what linebacker Derrick Morgan called a "mounting level" of frustration, especially after their latest loss.

"The overall sense on the sideline was we were going to win that game," Morgan said. "And when you come up short, it's a really bad feeling to have."

The Titans got the weekend off after their latest loss, a much-needed break for one of the NFL's first teams with a bye this season. They practiced Monday with Mularkey tweaking the offensive line again, looking at options to juice up the run game and better protect rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mularkey switched Byron Bell from left guard to right tackle when promoted Nov. 3, and he had Quinton Spain and rookie Jeremiah Poutasi work at left guard while moving Joe Looney over a spot to center. The Titans will practice in pads Wednesday and may do more then as Mularkey prepares for the Oakland Raiders (4-6) who visit Sunday.

That move would bench rookie Andy Gallik, who took over at center when Brian Schwenke suffered a season-ending ankle injury Oct. 18.

"To be thrown into the situation he's been thrown into as a rookie and literally be the guy that's making all the calls with a rookie quarterback, he's done well," Mularkey said. "He just got beat a couple times in this last game. We're not trying to replace him by any means, we're just trying to look at our best options against who we're about to play."

Spain is an undrafted rookie who is quick and has nice size at 6-foot-4, 330 pounds. Spain said he's been studying on and off the field, preparing to be ready in case he got an opportunity. The 6-5, 335-pound Poutasi started seven games at right tackle before Mularkey benched him for Bell.

Wide receiver Kendall Wright also ran Monday, and he expects to practice Wednesday and likely play Sunday. His return would be a big boost to a receiving corps that lost Justin Hunter to a season-ending injury last week. The Titans currently rank 30th averaging 18.2 points per game.

"I just want to be a spark, just be out there helping my teammates," Wright said.

The Titans have the toughest remaining schedule left in the AFC South based on opponents' records and are three back of division leaders Indianapolis and Houston (5-5). Mularkey said he's only focused on what happens in these final games, not his future.

"I've got to worry about the 'now,' right now," Mularkey said.


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