NASHVILLE—To Dick LeBeau this was old hat. The oldest coordinator in the NFL said he couldn’t remember the last eclipse he’s seen in his lifetime, or the first. Was it 10 years ago? Twenty?
“It was probably 90,” LeBeau, the 79-year-old pioneer of the zone blitz, said jokingly. “But I don’t ever remember seeing a total one. That was pretty cool, huh?”
The Titans players agreed. To watch the event, coach Mike Mularkey stopped practice at 1:22 p.m., five minutes before the eclipse would reach totality, with the moon completely blotting out the sun. The Kansas City Chiefs, the other NFL team in the path of totality, also took time out to watch the monumental sky show.
Mularkey’s assistant ordered protective glasses for all 90 players on the roster, plus the entire coaching, training, equipment and media relations staffs. Once the glasses were dealt out, players who had been warned not to look at the sky without glasses were given permission to gaze up.
“Damn, that’s crazy,” said tight end Phillip Supernaw.
“That’s pretty dope,” said tight end Delanie Walker
“This is the end of the world boys,” said Titans.com writer Jim Wyatt, shaking hands with several reporters. “Enjoyed working with you.”
Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light” played over the loudspeakers, then “Dancing in the Dark.” Finally, “Sunglasses at Night,” the 1984 single by Canadian one-hit wonder Corey Hart.
Once the practice field went totally dark and the team paused the music, players guffawed and shrieked with glee. Position groups gathered to pose for pictures in the blackness. The Titans stood up and stared quietly, or lay down, resting their heads on their helmets. Some snapchatted videos in the dark.
“It feels like we’re dreaming,” said offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.
“All I need to see now is a cow jumping over the moon,” marveled defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend.
As the light returned—totality in Nashville was around two minutes—and coaches and players tossed their glasses and headed back to the locker room, a handful remained to watch the moon and the sun part completely. In one end zone, Titans quarterbacks led by Marcus Mariota spent the last moments of the eclipse throwing out routes to receivers.
Back in the locker room, players picked up smartphones pinging with messages about the event, some realizing the eclipse had been less spectacular in hometowns that were not in the path of totality. Logan Ryan, the cornerback who joined the Titans in free agency this offseason, sat at his locker and quietly contemplated what he’d seen.
“All these people drove hours and hours to come to Nashville to see this,” Ryan said. “I think it’s a cool circle of events that led me to this point in my life, and I feel like where I’m supposed to be, with guys I’m supposed to be with. It was a revelation man. There’s no better sign.”
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