Last year, before the Tennessee Titans made their first Monday Night Football appearance in three years, linebacker Keith Bulluck declared on the Wednesday before the game that he was “Mr. Monday Night.”
That was in response to a question from a rather green reporter who asked if Bulluck had indeed played in Monday night game before.
Bulluck then went out and backed up his self-imposed nickname by intercepting Saints quarterback Drew Brees three times in the Titans’ 31-14 victory in New Orleans.
With Monday Night Football finding the Titans once again, Bulluck is holding to the moniker he created for himself before that game last year, but says he would rather bask in the glory of the team’s 6-0 start.
“It’s hard to top it, but I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to go out there and make plays and be part of a Titans victory,” Bulluck said as the Titans prepare to face AFC South rival Indianapolis at LP Field. “It’s not always about making the spectacular play. It could be something as simple as making a key third-down stop or whatever. I’m very confident that I’ll be part of a victory on Monday.”
Still, though, Bulluck does have a flair for the dramatic in primetime, and his Monday night statistics bear that out. The linebacker has 16 career interceptions in 127 games played. Five of those picks have come in 11 Monday night appearances.
And, you guessed it, his only touchdown off an interception came on a Monday night as a rookie when he returned an Anthony Wright pass for a score in a 31-0 shellacking of Dallas on Christmas night.
Bulluck has done more than intercept passes with the national spotlight on him. Three times he has had games with double-digit tackles, with a 14-tackle game against the New England Patriots in 2002 being his best effort.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said it is simply a product of good defense and Bulluck carrying out his assignments correctly, and that the primetime showcase helps take care of the rest.
“Their responsibilities are to be consistent week after week after week,” Fisher said. “When a player makes a big play in a nationally televised game, it’s a much bigger play than it is in a locally televised game.”
So can Bulluck put on any sort of show this time around to further add to his lore — like Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who in the 1970s declared himself “Mr. October” and continued to pad that clutch reputation throughout his career.
“I do think I can, but at the same time, it’s football,” Bulluck said. “As a baseball player, you get certain pitches that you’re able to hit. In football, a team has to call certain plays in order for you to put yourself in position to make them.”
Still, some players seem to have a certain knack when the spotlight shines brightest.
“Certainly it’s very true that when you’re playing on primetime television, there’s no other competitive games on, it’s obviously a chance for players to watch other players play,” Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. “I think players like it when an old college teammate or a former teammate is getting a chance to watch them play or other coaches might be watching them play, whatever it might be. So sure, I think for all players both young players and veteran players, you always want to play well and put on a good performance and try to get a win when you’re the only game on TV.”
As center Kevin Mawae said of Monday night games, “If you do great, everybody knows who you are and if you do bad, everyone knows who you are.”
Bulluck is one who craves that spotlight not only for himself, but also for a Titans team that is 6-0 and making its only primetime appearance, except for the potential for NBC to take a late-season game for a Sunday night showing.
“Some people get stage fright, you know what I mean?” Bulluck said. “I feel this team doesn’t get put on a national stage a lot. So any time we get that opportunity, we’ve got to make the most of it. … Any time you get an opportunity to play in a big game on a national stage, you always want to put your best foot forward. That’s your best opportunity to show people what they’ve been missing.”
Slimmer Slammer: LenDale White, whose 80-yard run Sunday at Kansas City is the longest touchdown run by anyone this season, can credit part of that jaunt to the fact that he has lost some weight since the start of the season.
Both White and Fisher said White has dropped some weight, but declined to say exactly how much.
“He’s in great shape and he’s lost a little bit of weight and he’s doing well,” Fisher said. “It’s just something he’s decided to do and I think it’s serving him well.”
White, listed at 235, but whose weight was north of 260 at times before last season, has been doing extra conditioning after practice in an effort to keep his weight in check.
“I've just been working hard trying to get in the best shape I can possibly be in,” White said. “I’ve been in good shape. They weren't upset when I came in. It was everything is fine. The thing is I'm trying to lose more weight to get the burst that I have and get the speed I need to have on this level.”
Injuries: Fisher indicated that defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who missed a second straight day of practice with his injured groin, was improving and would have a chance to return to practice before the week is up.
The only other Titans to miss practice Thursday were receiver Justin McCareins (hamstring), who did some running on the side and linebacker Colin Allred, who also has a groin strain.
Both receiver Justin Gage (knee) and defensive tackle Tony Brown (ankle) practiced for a second straight day.
Almost: Titans quarterback Kerry Collins said that when he first signed with the team back in 2006 that he nearly became a Colt as Peyton Manning’s backup before agreeing to terms with the Titans.
Colts general manager Bill Polian originally drafted Collins with the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the 1995 draft.
“I talked with him some the first time before I signed here in ’06,” Collins said. “I was fairly close. I knew I had a much better chance at sitting there for awhile [behind Manning with 166 straight starts] than maybe here. He contacted me, and we had some talks. I respect the organization. … They’ve won a lot of games over the years.”
EXPENSIVE SOLO: Running back Chris Johnson was fined $10,000 by the NFL for his drum-playing after he scored on a 66-yard touchdown run at Kansas City Sunday.
Johnson ran over to the Chiefs pep band after scoring and began playing on the conga drums, drawing a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty.
Titans vs. Colts
Monday, 7:30 p.m.
TV — ESPN