Tennessee Titans offensive linemen Tyler Marz, right, and Jeremiah Poutasi, center, run a drill during an NFL football practice, Wednesday, June 1, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey
June 02, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Mike Mularkey has had three officials throwing flags every time his Tennessee Titans have stepped on the field this offseason. He's bringing them back for training camp too.

Mularkey wants to help his Titans control what they can by eliminating costly penalties.

So far, success during the OTAs has been mixed with Mularkey seeing too many false starts by the offense and too many defenders jumping offside after being faked out by the quarterbacks' cadence calling plays. Those aren't the only penalties either with Mularkey counting 11 at one practice alone.

''A lot of them are inexcusable,'' Mularkey said. ''They're in seven-on-seven, there's no reason to jump when there's no line or d-line there. We just had a discussion about it. We talk about penalties after every practice and what we've got to do to fix it because we're not going to be one of those teams that beats yourself on Sunday.''

Not only has Mularkey been bringing in officials, the coach also charts penalties that he shows his Titans at the start of every week reminding them of where they stand. It's a list nobody wants to top, and Mularkey doesn't spare feelings when listing players' names, especially whoever lands at No. 1 with the most penalties in a method that might be called motivation by shame or simple embarrassment.

''When we put the chart up and guys see their names up there, you really don't want to see your name in lights there in front of all your teammates, especially those guys up on top the leader list is not good,'' Mularkey said.

Mularkey already has proof that his attention to cleaning up penalties can work.

Even though the Titans went 3-13 last season, they ranked second in the NFL for the fewest penalties with 93 and tied for second fewest yards penalized with 779. That tied for the third fewest penalties in franchise history over a 16-game season.

The Titans were even better over the final eight games with Mularkey in charge as then-interim coach. Tennessee led the NFL with only 34 penalties - the best stretch in franchise history over the final eight games of a 16-game season. That was nine fewer than the Patriots over that stretch from a roster that featured 12 rookies and 10 players in their second NFL seasons.

Mularkey said an offside penalty wiped out an interception by the defense last week. He's also seen a couple fights that can't be tolerated now with the NFL's new rule ejecting players after two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. So he let players weigh in on how best to address the penalties whether by running, up downs or pushups.

''You've got to do something if you don't do something, it's like you're endorsing that it's OK,'' Mularkey said Wednesday. ''It's not OK. So right now I know the O line is running gassers.''

Center Ben Jones said big guys never want to run. Players also don't want to see their names anywhere on Mularkey's penalty chart. Each day offers up a fresh chance at playing perfectly - or at least penalty-free.

''You've just got to take pride and you've got to focus when it's hot and just zone in,'' Jones said.



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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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