There was a familiar punt return candidate and a new one on the field in Wednesday morning’s special teams practice.
The familiar one was Mark Jones, who was signed for the express purpose of returning punts and kickoffs, and was back from a hamstring injury.
The new candidate was perhaps even more intriguing – first-round pick Kenny Britt.
“It’s something he’s never done, but he’s pretty natural at doing it. He’s done it in our specialist periods, but it was the first time in a team setting,” special teams coach Alan Lowry said.
At 6-3, 218, Britt dwarfs the average punt returner, but it is not a concept he is totally unfamiliar with.
“I’ve been catching punts since I was in Pop Warner,” Britt said. “I was the backup at Rutgers, but they just never put me in there, because they didn’t want me to get hurt. I practiced every day, just in case somebody got hurt.”
According to Britt, he excelled at returning punts as a high school player in Bayonne, N.J.
“I averaged like two-and-a-half touchdowns a game my junior year, and my senior year, they didn’t kick it to me,” Britt said.
Britt said he volunteered for the chance to return punts for the Titans.
“I always wanted to do it in college, but they wouldn’t let me. I actually asked them [to let me],” Britt said. “As long as I keep on coming out there, they’ll probably give me a shot.”
As for being bigger than most returners, Britt said it can be good or bad.
“There’s an advantage and a disadvantage to that. I’m bigger, and I’m more of a target for them to hit me, but I’m bigger and I can take a hit,” he said.
While Britt could get a chance, the primary return man was back in Jones, who has missed most of camp and the preseason opener with a hamstring injury. He said he still believes the return jobs are his for the taking. Chris Davis, now out with a hamstring issue of his own, is the primary punt return competition, and Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty are in the mix on kickoffs.
“I know my mindset, and from my standpoint, I feel like it’s still my job to lose,” Jones said. “I don’t want to rush the hamstring and rush to comeback and lose it completely, but I also want to go in there and show them why I’m the guy.”
Jones was only out here to catch on Wednesday morning, but said he will test the hamstring more fully either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday with the possibility of playing Saturday night against Tampa Bay.