Season-ending shoulder injury could end Colin McCarthy’s Titans career

The star-crossed career of Tennessee Titans linebacker Colin McCarthy took another wicked turn with the news that he could miss the entire season with a shoulder injury.

McCarthy suffered the injury in Saturday night’s preseason opener, playing in the third quarter with the Titans third-team defense, hoping to show the new coaching regime that he is still a worthwhile entity, either as an inside linebacker or on special teams.

The question now is whether the shoulder injury spells the end of McCarthy’s time with the Tennessee Titans.

In just his fourth season, McCarthy has been through quite a rollercoaster ride in his time as a Titan.

When Tennessee selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, McCarthy made an immediate impact in preseason and on special teams by having a nose for the football and a knack for making big plays.

Back in 2011, the Titans were a team in transition, having moved on from Jeff Fisher with Mike Munchak in his first season as head coach.

They drafted Jake Locker to be the future franchise quarterback and lauded linebacker Akeem Ayers as a second-round steal.

And while third-rounder Jurrell Casey has had the biggest long-term impact from that draft class to date, it was McCarthy who became both a fan and locker room favorite.

Midway through his rookie season, McCarthy supplanted veteran Barrett Ruud as the starting middle linebacker and, by December, had garnered AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for a nine-tackle game against the Buffalo Bills, in which he forced one fumble and recovered two more.

His inspiring play helped keep the Titans in playoff contention during Munchak’s first year as a head coach. The team would eventually finish just out the money at 9-7.

The next year, McCarthy’s star was still on the rise as he entered training camp and was voted as the team’s defensive captain – quite an honor for a player who had only 13 NFL games under his belt and just seven career starts.

McCarthy appeared to be the type of playmaker in the middle that then-defensive coordinator Jerry Gray could build his unit around.

However, things soon began to go badly, and for whatever reason the likeable linebacker has never really been able to fully reverse the trend.

McCarthy suffered a high ankle sprain in the 2012 season opener, and the injury bothered him throughout the season. While playing through that injury, he suffered a concussion that landed him on injured reserve.

In all, McCarthy managed to play in just seven games that year.

He came back healthy in 2013, but wound up losing his starting middle linebacker role to Moise Fokou in training camp.

Now, entering the 2014 season, with a new coaching staff, a new 3-4 system and in the final year of his rookie contract, McCarthy is in an uphill fight to stay on the roster.

Saturday night’s injury certainly doesn’t help his chances, and neither does his $1.431 million base salary, which the Titans probably deem as way too much for a non-starter and special teams player.

It’s doubtful that McCarthy could get healthy quickly enough to play this year. Indications are season-ending surgery will be required.

Would the Titans place him on injured reserve and either reach a settlement or pay off his 2014 salary? Seems unlikely.

Perhaps McCarthy would be better off finding a fresh start somewhere else in the league and put his Titans days behind him.

But if Saturday night proves to be the end of Colin McCarthy’s run with Tennessee, it closes yet another promising Titans career with fans and coaches wondering what might have been.

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