Notebook: Steve Hutchinson admits it will be 'weird' to return to Dome
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Steve Hutchinson has been in this situation before. Standing on the opposing sideline at a stadium he used to call home.
The first time Hutchinson did it was in 2006, after the left guard bolted from Seattle to sign a free-agent offer from the Minnesota Vikings that included a much-discussed "poison pill." Seahawks fans did not exactly take kindly to Hutchinson's return, given the circumstances of his departure.
That was in part because Hutchinson left Seattle still at the top of his game and as one of the NFL's best offensive lineman. When Hutchinson returns to the Metrodome on Sunday as a member of the Tennessee Titans it will be as a 12-year veteran nearing the end of his career.
Still, Hutchinson thinks it will be a bit odd to be wearing a visiting uniform after six seasons with the Vikings.
"I've been over (on the opposing sideline) before, but it's been a long time and was in the Seattle days," Hutchinson said Wednesday during a conference call with members of the Twin Cities media. "I was just kind of thinking back to how weird it is to go back.
"I remember when I went back to Seattle in 2006, and you're basically playing against all the guys you've been with in the locker room for however many years. But I've been over there. I kind of remember what that visiting locker room looks like, so I won't be completely lost."
Hutchinson, 34, signed a three-year, $16 million contract that included $6 million in guarantees in March, a few days after being released by the Vikings. Hutchinson had been due $6.95 million in the final year of the seven-year deal he signed with the team in 2006, but general manager Rick Spielman wanted to turn over the aging roster after a 3-13 season.
The seven-year, $49 million deal Hutchison had signed with the Vikings was the richest for a guard in NFL history at the time and contained language that made it next to impossible for Seattle to match.
Asked if he accepted the Vikings decision to let him go, Hutchinson said: "I didn't have an option. I got a call and they told me the decision they were going (with). I wasn't completely blindsided.
"Just knowing the direction the team is going, they're trying to get younger in areas. I kind of saw the writing on the wall. It was a fun run. It was a good six years but it's a business, too, and they've got to do what they've got to do."
Hutchinson, who still maintains a residence in the Twin Cities, could have retired but he already had decided he wanted to play at least one more season. He is no longer the same player he was when he made seven consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl from 2003-09, but the Titans liked the fact he could provide leadership.
"I kind of had it in my head that if I'd of played this last contract out with the Vikings that would have put me at 12 years and that sounded like a good number to me," he said. "I don't know if I felt comfortable hanging it up after 11 (years). You get that number in your head.
"I don't know what this contract will take me to realistically. ... I don't know if all three years will come into play. So it wasn't really much of a hard choice to figure out if I wanted to keep playing given that I wanted to honor that 12-year mark I had in my head."
Hutchinson said he feels pretty good after starting the first four games for the Titans. He also isn't surprised that his former team already has equaled its victory total from last season.
"I know the character of the guys in that locker room," he said. The leaders they have on the team. I don't think there was a doubt that Christian (Ponder) was going to be a great player for that team.
"I think last year with the new offensive system and the lockout and no offseason, asking a rookie to come in and grasp every aspect of the game at the quarterback position at the level of the NFL is hard to do. I knew once he settled in he'd be good. They're doing well, they're looking good and I'm sure the fans are happy and they deserve that."
Ponder on injury report
Christian Ponder was wearing a wrap on his right knee Wednesday and was limited in practice because of the issue, according to the Vikings injury report.
The quarterback was added to the injury report last Thursday because of a neck issue but was able to play in last Sunday's victory at Detroit. Ponder is expected to play against the Titans on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Titans coch Mike Munchak confirmed veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will start Sunday in place of Jake Locker, who dislocated his non-throwing shoulder last weekend.
Linebacker Patrick Bailey (hand), receiver Kenny Britt (ankle), guard Leroy Harris (not injury related), Locker (shoulder) and defensive end Scott Solomon (hamstring) did not practice for the Titans. Tight end Jared Cook (shoulder) and linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle) were limited for Tennessee.
• Munchak said the Titans liked Ponder "a lot" entering the drafted and worked him out at Florida State. Munchak, however, added that he felt Locker was a better fit for his team's offensive plans. Locker was selected by the Titans with the eighth pick in the 2011 draft and Ponder went 12th. "I think Minnesota got a great guy that will be there for a long time," Munchak said.
• Rookie Blair Walsh missed his first field-goal attempt of the season Sunday at Detroit and is now nine of 10 on the season. Walsh missed wide left from 46 yards in the fourth quarter. "I just pulled it a little bit," Walsh said. "It went from right to left and pulled it too much. It's over with now." Asked about his mentality toward his misses, Walsh said: "Each one is a separate kick, unless there is a trend you're seeing, and hopefully I'll go back out there and make the next one and go on from there."
• Ultimate fighter Travis Brown was at Winter Park on Wednesday and spoke to the Vikings after their walk-through.