Things have gotten a bit more competitive at Tennessee Titans training camp in recent days.
Wednesday was the third straight day for which the padded practice session included a best-of-five, one-on-one battle for bragging rights – and a little something extra – between the offense and defense.
“I think it just raises the enthusiasm a little bit,” coach Mike Munchak said. “You try to make guys a little uncomfortable, take them out of their comfort zone. Everyone’s watching.
“Whatever the drill may be – I think in the three days we got every position involved in this thing – we let the whole team watch and see how they do in a one-on-one drill. I think it just kind of gets you prepared and raises the enthusiasm a little for practice.”
Wednesday it was a blitz drill that pitted one linebacker against a tight end or running back. The previous day it was offensive and defensive linemen in a classic blocking contest. Monday it was wide receivers running pass routes against defensive backs.
Whichever side comes up short is put through a quick round of up-downs – a classic football drill – before the regular workout resumes.
“I wanted to wait until the second week so we were comfortable and got some of the soreness out,” Munchak said. “… We’ll do some 11-on-11 periods like that now – team competitive periods like we did a little bit.
“I think it’s a nice change-up. It challenges each group a little bit. They come together as offense and defense a little bit more and we just have a little fun with it.”
• Missed opportunity: Before he was named Titans wide receivers coach, Dave Ragone lost out on a chance to be a head coach.
Ragone interviewed for the top position with the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League, a job that opened when Chris Palmer joined the Titans as offensive coordinator. On Wednesday, the Hartford franchise folded.
Ragone, a former college quarterback, gained his entry into the coaching ranks last season as Hartford’s quarterbacks coach.
“I say this from the bottom of my heart, that opportunity there [in the UFL] for players and coaches – because there’s so many NFL coaches who are over there – it was a really great crash course in learning how to coach professional players in a professional environment,” he said. “A lot of those coaches, for whatever reason are there. It’s not so much about talent or anything, it’s about the opportunity.”
The remaining four UFL teams will play a six-game schedule, which is set to commence Sept. 15.
• Catching on: Wednesday’s workout ended with a long touchdown reception by Marc Mariani. It is the kind of thing the second-year wide receiver hopes to do often in 2011.
He made the Pro Bowl last season as a return specialist but did not catch a pass.
“I want to contribute,” Mariani said. “I take a lot of pride, obviously, in the return game and look to continue to make plays to put our offense and defense in good situations. On the offensive side of the ball, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to catch some passes and get some work in. Hopefully every day will get better.”