Titans lose linebacker Fowler for season with shoulder injury

Updated: December 19, 2007, 11:57 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Middle linebacker Ryan Fowler, who in his first season as a starter helped stabilize the Tennessee Titans' defense, will miss the rest of the season with a right shoulder injury suffered in last Sunday's victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The four-year veteran has been placed on injured reserve and the Titans have signed free agent Jorge Cordova to take his place on the roster. Cordova, a 2004 third-round draft choice of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has been plagued by a series of injuries throughout his career.

Fowler, 25, started all 14 games for the Titans and had 73 tackles, three tackles for losses, and one pass defensed.

Second-year veteran Stephen Tulloch, who replaced Fowler on Sunday after the injury, and recorded nine tackles against the Chiefs, will move into the starting lineup. Tulloch started three games in 2006, and he competed with Fowler for the starting job in training camp this summer.

The loss of Fowler is a significant one, because he helped anchor a defense that statistically ranks No. 5 in the league, and which has demonstrated considerable improvement over a year ago. The Titans, who host the New York Jets on Sunday, are 8-6 with two games remaining, and a game behind Cleveland for the second AFC wild card berth.

After three years with the Dallas Cowboys, where he started three times in 32 appearances, Fowler was courted by both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Titans as a restricted free agent. In March, he verbally agreed to a four-year offer sheet with Philadelphia, and the accord was far enough along that the Eagles actually announced it on their Web site.

After further consideration, Fowler had second thoughts about his future. Before he officially signed the offer sheet with the Eagles, he changed his mind and signed a four-year, $11.5 million offer sheet from the Titans. The Cowboys declined to match the deal and Fowler moved on to the Titans, where he won the starting job, becoming the Titans' sixth different starting middle linebacker in six seasons.

A former Duke standout, Fowler was a special teams terror for the Cowboys, notching a team-best 24 tackles on the kicking units in 2006. From scrimmage, he registered only 19 tackles and two forced fumbles in three seasons. But in scrutinizing video of Fowler early in the spring, Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz saw a mobile player with solid size (6-feet-3, 250 pounds) and the ability to avoid clutter to get to the ball.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.