NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Linebacker David Thornton will practice Wednesday with Tennessee for the first time this year as he and the Titans test his surgically repaired hip. If healthy enough to be activated, the nine-year veteran won't be returning to his starting role.
First, the Titans (5-3) need to check out Thornton, who turned 32 Monday and has been on the physically unable-to-perform list since the final roster cutdown because he wasn't healthy. The Titans on Tuesday activated a three-week window for Thornton to practice and to gauge whether they should add him to the roster or end his season.
Will Witherspoon, a free-agent signing in March, and second-year LB Gerald McRath have done well as the starters at outside linebacker. That means Thornton likely would find himself as a backup and on special teams.
"I think if he's able to go, then we have to make a decision: Do we bring him up?" coach Jeff Fisher said. "Because our two outside linebackers are playing well right now.
"So what he does is, yes, he can do some things on special teams. He's always been willing to do that, and then he gives us the opportunity to plug him in an extra-backer package. In addition to that, some other things we can do and some sub-packages, and he's there if we need him."
Working his way back is nothing new for Thornton.
The 6-foot-2, 233-pound linebacker was a walk-on at the University of North Carolina and was drafted in the fourth round by Indianapolis in 2002. He signed with the Titans in 2006 and became their left outside linebacker. Thornton has started 102 of 121 games in his career, and he led Tennessee with 140 tackles in 2007.
Thornton played in 11 games last season before he was placed on injured reserve with a pectoral and shoulder injury that needed surgery. He also had offseason surgery on his hip and had hoped to be ready to practice during training camp, which didn't happen.
Thornton has been watching practices and traveling with the team. The Tennesseanreported last week he lowered his contract from $4.35 million he was due this season to $1.6 million with an extra $100,000 for each game up to 10 that he is on the active roster.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press