NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Titans' passing game was in the lower ranks of the NFL to begin with. Now they go into the first round of the playoffs having lost two of their top three receivers in as many days.
First, it was tight end Bo Scaife out with a lacerated liver. Now, receiver Roydell Williams broke his right ankle in practice, and they already had lost receiver Brandon Jones to a groin injury Dec. 15.
At least Vince Young practised Thursday even though he split the work with backup Kerry Collins. Centre Kevin Mawae, who has missed the last two games with an injured left calf, and right guard Benji Olson (back) sat out practice.
Running back LenDale White missed practice for a second straight day but was excused for personal reasons. Coach Jeff Fisher said he expects White to practice before the Titans (10-6) visit San Diego (11-5) for Sunday's wild-card game.
But the immediate problem for an offence that had only nine touchdown receptions this season is replacing Williams, who tied with Justin Gage for a team-high 55 catches, in addition to Scaife.
"It's a challenge," coach Jeff Fisher said Thursday. "We have a number of starters we started the season with that are out.
"You just move on. You have younger players that have to step up and take advantage of the opportunity."
Williams was having surgery Thursday afternoon to repair the bone at the base of the tibia. He was hurt during practice Wednesday, but was able to walk off the indoor practice field by himself.
Fisher said X-rays showed the severity of the injury late Wednesday night.
"There's no damage to the ligaments, no damage to the tendons," Fisher said. "It was peculiar in that he cracked it, a significant crack at the base of the tibia.
"It's going to require a plate and screws to be repaired."
The Titans lost Scaife, who ranked third on the team with 46 catches, after he sustained a lacerated liver in last week's win at Indianapolis.
Williams ranked second with 719 yards and a team-high four touchdowns after starting 14 of 16 games.
Gage called it a surprising injury but said freak accidents happen in football.
"We've just got to keep tugging away and get this victory," Gage said. "That's the main thing right now."
The Titans are used to this.
They started the season without veteran receiver David Givens, who continues recovering from a knee injury in November 2006, and lost Jones last month. They lost starting safety Chris Hope last month to a neck injury and middle linebacker Ryan Fowler to a shoulder on Dec. 18.
Gage has started the last seven games at receiver, and the Titans also have veteran Eric Moulds, who has 32 catches for 342 yards with 9,995 yards receiving for his career. Undrafted rookie Biren Ealy caught his first NFL pass last week.
They also have Mike Williams, who was signed in late November, and third-round draft pick Paul Williams, who was deactivated for every game this season.
Moulds called the injuries opportunities for others.
"I mean, you can't replace Roydell," Moulds said. "You can't replace Bo.
"But you can have guys step in and get an opportunity to make plays. Everybody knows the offense now. Everybody knows what to do. We've just got to go out there and do it."