No surgery, but no expedited return

10/2/2004 - Tennessee Titans

Lance Schulters will not require surgery on his left foot, but the Tennessee Titans' starting free safety, injured in last week's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, still probably will miss at least eight more weeks.

That was the verdict delivered to Schulters by noted foot expert Dr. Robert Anderson of Charlotte, N.C., certainly a mixed-bag prognosis for the struggling Titans and for their standout safety. Anderson confirmed the earlier assessment by Tennessee doctors that Schulters has a mid-foot sprain, commonly known as a Lisfranc injury.

Such foot injuries, which have increased significantly in the past three seasons, typically require season-ending surgery. Instead, Schulters must keep his foot immobilized in a protective boot for at least four more weeks. Even if there is progress in healing at that point, Schulters still would not play for about another month after that.

The seventh-year veteran, a key to the Titans' secondary because he makes many of the adjustment calls for the unit and is a physical performer, will seek a third opinion in New York next week. But team officials acknowledged the prognosis for Schulters is not likely to change.

"Relatively speaking," said coach Jeff Fisher, "at least there is still a chance we could get him back for the stretch run. And, I guess, that beats surgery. It's a relief of sorts."

Third-year veteran Lamont Thompson, who has seen considerable playing time when the Titans employ a nickel coverage package, will replace Schulters, and will get the first start of his career Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. In the team's season-opening victory, Thompson had a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Blessed with prototype size, Thompson, 26, is an intriguing player. A star at Washington State, he was chosen by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 2002 draft. But after a pedestrian rookie season, Thompson was released by the Bengals when Marvin Lewis became head coach in 2003.

The Titans quickly snatched up Thompson, whom they viewed as an eventual starter, and he has played well in spot duty for them. Along with strong safety Tank Williams, he will give the Titans a physically imposing safety tandem.

"The biggest difference for me is in the mental stuff," Thompson said. "I'm going to have to take some mental responsibilities [Schulters] always handled, that's the real test."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.