Postcard from camp: Titans
The Titans' two-hour padded practice on Tuesday, conducted before a sun-drenched crowd at the team's year-round facility in Nashville, felt like the first day of a new school year: Your classmates are virtually the same, but the teachers are totally different. The fact that Jeff Fisher, the dean of NFL coaches before his firing at the end of last year, isn't roaming the fields in wraparound shades and a sandpaper beard anymore takes some getting used to. But Tuesday was a reminder that the show does indeed go on.
"Was it wrong? Absolutely," Finnegan said as part of a lengthy public apology. "But it was something that I needed to talk about with her." Will he be fined? Almost certainly, said new coach Mike Munchak, and the price for missing a day of camp is now $30,000 under the new CBA. Gotta spend money to make money, right?
Only when pressured in scrimmages did Locker consistently find his targets, and he was on the money rolling to his right. Still, there's no doubt he has the skill set and the discipline to get all the steps down. One veteran training camp observer told me he thinks Locker's already further along than Vince Young was at the same point.
But then he hired another former Oiler, Hall of Fame teammate Bruce Matthews, to replace him as offensive line coach. And then another, Frank Bush, to coach linebackers. And they join yet one more, secondary coach Marcus Robertson, a former All-Pro safety. So if you've got any powder blue jerseys or oil rig helmets that need signing, come on down! They'll be here all week.
Whereas in the past Titan linemen were tasked with getting to the quarterback at all costs, this year they'll take more of a read-and-react approach. "We all want to sack the quarterback; I understand that," Rocker said. "But the quarterback might drop back 50 times. Hopefully you get four to five sacks a game. No one accounts for the other 44 or 45 times. Those are the things that I'm trying to make sure we're better at in terms of pushing the pocket and taking passing lanes away."
Matt Hasselbeck is hard to miss. He doesn't have all of the playbook down yet, or his full complementary cast (beside the aforementioned Johnson holdout, Britt is limited with a hamstring injury). But he's making the most of his new challenges and having fun tweaking his old-school coach.
Throughout camp, Munchak has pitted offense against defense in mini-competitions. Tuesday's edition, a one-on-one receiver drill, would have ended in victory for the offense had not a receiver taunted after the catch. As the official loser, Hasselbeck and the rest of his unit had to do a series of up-downs -- kind of a half push-up, half stationary run, but in rapid succession. "That made us very sloppy for the next period," Hasselbeck joked. "That might be Munch's way of getting back at a coach who did something to him back in the day. I know he's got the offensive linemen on that sled. He couldn't have liked the sled as a player."
The first five games -- three of them on the road -- could be rough, but then the Titans get four of their next six at LP Field. If they can make the most of that homestand, they leave themselves room for error in season-ending matchups at Indianapolis, against Jacksonville and at Houston -- games that might well decide who goes to the playoffs as division champs and who goes as the wild card.