Titans open minicamp with big thud from RB Derrick Henry
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The crack of rookie Derrick Henry's helmet smashing off Quinton Spain's head gear echoed across the Titans' practice field, leaving the left guard chuckling when asked about the collision with the Heisman Trophy winner.
Playing offense with the running back, Spain shouldn't be getting in Henry's way, and the collision left the left guard feeling bad for his teammates on defense since he certainly didn't slow down the 6-foot-3 rookie.
''When he hit me, I felt it and he kept running,'' Spain said in the locker room after Tuesday's practice.
The Tennessee Titans hit the field for the first of their three-day minicamp with the team opening the doors to invited season-ticket holders, grilling up hot dogs and handing out chips and drinks. At least 500 fans turned out on a morning where the temperature felt like 101 degrees before a thunderstorm ended the session a few minutes early.
Jeremy Rutherford, 30, of nearby Brentwood, Tennessee, wanted to check out the team's new additions at running back in both Henry and DeMarco Murray in person.
''It gives you a personal touch with the team,'' Rutherford said of the invite from a team that is 5-27 the past two seasons and working hard to woo ticket buyers.
For Mike Mularkey in his first offseason as Tennessee's head coach, giving some fans access Tuesday and Wednesday offers his Titans the chance to work in front of people before training camp opened. The trade-off is an adrenaline boost for players and the chance to show off what they've been working on.
''I wanted to give the crowd a good show,'' Mularkey said.
The best part of Tuesday may have been what fans didn't see. Mularkey had charted 115 penalties through 10 OTA sessions caught by both the three officials he's had throwing flags at practices and by coaches checking film later. The penalties included 46 false starts, 32 offsides and a number of illegal formations, which the coach noted aren't affected by an opponent.
On Tuesday, Mularkey said the Titans only committed two penalties, so that meant the offending unit only had to do pushups twice. Adding pushups as a penalty Mularkey suggested Tuesday morning with a twist. The person who commits a penalty stands and watches his teammates drop to the ground as a reminder of how he affects the rest of the team.
''Whether that was a direct influence on the outcome, I know standing there if I'm looking at everybody else doing them, it certainly would send a message to me,'' Mularkey said.
The Titans still are busy trying to improve their offensive line to both better protect quarterback Marcus Mariota and open holes for Murray and Henry. This competition is expected to go into August, but Spain, an undrafted rookie out of West Virginia, is still working with the first-team at left guard where he started the final seven games last season.
The rest of that group Tuesday featured left tackle Taylor Lewan, free agent signee Ben Jones at center, Chance Warmack at right guard and rookie Jack Conklin at right tackle. Conklin has moved up to the first-team line after veteran Byron Bell dislocated his left ankle, and Mularkey said the eighth overall draft selection out of Michigan State has quietly done his job.
''We haven't heard a lot from Jack,'' Mularkey said. ''He does what we're asking him to do, and I think any time you get reps it's going to be a b onus for you. ... He twisted his ankle last week a little bit, he played through it. He's exactly what we're hoping for to fill that spot if we had to.''
Notes: Kevin Dodd, the 33rd pick overall out of Clemson, is in a walking cast now after surgery to put a screw in his right foot last month. ... DE Mike Smith will need pins in a broken hand, but Mularkey said the lineman will be ready for training camp.
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