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NASHVILLE – Chances are no one ever has referred to Craig Aukerman as grouchy. Or surly. Or cantankerous.

Simply put, the Tennessee Titans special teams coach is a pleasant man who likes to accentuate the positive, particularly when he meets the media.

Even so, his delight was impossible to ignore when he was asked about free agent kick returner Trenton Cannon during last week’s mandatory minicamp. The Titans added Cannon early in the free-agent signing period on a one-year deal worth $1.1875 million after his 2021 season ended in early December because of a head/neck injury that forced him to spend a night in a Seattle hospital.

“Oh, I got a big smile on my face for that one right there,” Aukerman said.

In the four years that Aukerman has worked in his current role under coach Mike Vrabel, seven different Titans have returned eight or more kickoffs led by Kalif Raymond with 33.

Over that same span, Cannon has returned 32 with four different teams, and his average of 23.2 yards per return is better than all of those who have done the job for Tennessee except for Darius Jennings whose 28.8-yard average largely is a product his league-leading 31.7-yard average in 2018.

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Cannon has yet to take one the distance in his NFL career, but he came tantalizingly close in 2020 when playing for the Carolina Panthers. In a game against Tampa Bay, he fielded a fourth quarter kick two yards deep in the end zone and went 98 yards before he was tackled at the Buccaneers’ 4. He finished that game with 151 yards on three returns the same day that Darrynton Evans – whose roster spot Cannon effectively fille this offseason – had his best day as a returner, 145 yards on twice as many attempts (six).

It was the fifth-longest return by any NFL player that season. Last year, he also ranked in the top 10 when he went 68 yards with one while playing for San Francisco.

“I think when you look at Trenton everyone gets to see some big returns out of him when he was at Carolina and some other places that he’s been,” Aukerman said. “… Just a dynamic, one-cut kickoff returner that’s going to get north and south as quickly as possible, and, obviously, he’s got great speed too.”

During the Titans era (1999-present), Tennessee has scored six touchdowns on kickoff returns. Only six teams have fewer during that same period, and four others have matched that number. Ten teams have 10 or more touchdowns on kickoff returns led by the New York Jets with 19.

The Titans’ last was Nov. 29, 2020, when A.J. Brown scooped up an onside kick at Indianapolis and took it 42 yards for the score with a little more than two minutes to play. That is the franchise’s longest kickoff return over the last two years.

The most recent traditional kickoff return for a touchdown was Sept. 9 at Miami, which was Vrabel’s first game as a head coach. Jennings delivered a 94-yard return in the fourth quarter of that one.

The hope is that Cannon will end that drought – and do a few other things in the kicking game. Three times in four years since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia State, he has logged more than 150 special teams snaps, and the Titans expect him to tackle opposing punt returners as effectively as he returns kickoffs.

“Obviously, we’re excited about Trenton, not only in the return game but in the other phase we have him on. He has been a really good gunner in the National Football League. He’s done some really good things on punt return too.”