Cornerback hears confidence in early offseason workouts with Titans

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 8:47pm
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The sound of defensive players chattering and challenging their offensive counterparts during a May workout is sweet music to cornerback Tye Hill.

That’s because through the first four seasons of his career about the only thing he heard at this time of the year was ‘If.’”

“Everywhere I’ve been it’s been, ‘If the defense … if, if, if the defense holds up everything will be fine,’” Hill said Wednesday. “It’s good to be here. The chatter is good and the defense is good. Guys are confident and have a lot of aggression.”

The Tennessee Titans signed Hill as a free agent at the end of March, two weeks after the Atlanta Falcons released him. The idea was that he would provide a veteran presence and another competitor for starting cornerback spot that belonged to Nick Haper the past three years.

The Falcons’ defense certainly didn’t hold up during his one season with them. Atlanta finished 28th in the NFL in pass defense and 21st overall last fall, which prompted a series of roster moves this offseason, one of which was Hill’s release.

Prior to that, he played three seasons with St. Louis, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2006. The Rams did not finish among the top 20 in total defense in any of his years with them.

So it is that the 27-year-old who has started 36 of the 48 games he’s played is happy to compete with veterans Rod Hood, Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty as well as fourth-round draft pick Alterraun Verner for a spot on a unit that finished among the top 10 in total defense twice in the last three years.

“I don't think it's going to be a case where we're going to make a decision right away,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “It's a good group. … We'll probably wait, and then if someone really steps out and shows us, then maybe perhaps the middle of the preseason or the last game, you make that decision.”

For his part, Hill welcomes the full length of the offseason and training camp to make his case. It was not that way in 2009, when the Rams traded him to the Falcons fewer than two weeks before the start of the regular season.

“I was trying to get out of Atlanta so I could be somewhere early, to have the chance to get in there for the OTAs and minicamps and to have a chance actually play and make the team versus just coming in late and being a camp guy, which I had gone through earlier,” he said. “I think we’re building a good chemistry right now. We’re out there competing every day to get better. All we’re doing is making each other better.”

That, and they’re making some sweet sounds.

Briefly

• Quarterback Chris Simms will wear the No. 11 this fall. It will be the first time during his professional career he dons the same number his father, Phil Simms, wore as a member of the New York Giants.

Simms wore No. 2 with both Tampa Bay and Denver but went to No. 8 while with the Titans two years ago because kicker Rob Bironas had No. 2.

Having come back to the Titans, he opted for his father’s number with no concern for any pressure about possible comparisons.

“If I haven’t learned to deal with that by now, I’m in trouble,” he said.

• Safety Nick Schommer intercepted passes during team drills in each of this week’s two practice sessions.

“He’s got a good feel for what we’re doing, he’s playing with the second team right now and he’s made some plays,” Fisher said. “The ball’s hit him in the chest a couple times and he’s made some plays himself through recognition, which is good to see.”

Schommer was the Titans’ final pick in the 2009 draft and spent the season on the practice squad.

• Veterans Jason Jones, Rod Hood, Tony Brown and Mark Jones were limited to working on the side with members of the training staff this week because of injuries. Fisher classified their progress toward full health as “good.”