Alge Crumpler is eager for the 2008 season to begin for a number of reasons.
First, he is healthier than at anytime in the past three years and ready to put past shoulder and knee problems behind him.
But just as important, Crumpler says he is ready for a fresh start in Nashville with the Tennessee Titans after leaving the sinking ship that was the 2007 Atlanta Falcons.
Crumpler, one of the Falcons’ veteran leaders, was in the middle as the Falcons’ season disintegrated before it began with the Michael Vick dog-fighting case hanging over the team, and the unsteady regime of first-year coach Bobby Petrino, who bolted before the season was over to return to the college ranks at the University of Arkansas.
“It was terrible. I’ve never been in a more unprofessional environment in my National Football League career. Never in my life,” Crumpler said. “Quite frankly, I’m glad to be out there, and that’s not a knock on anything other than what we has players had to go through last season.
“The fans, I absolutely love and adore. I scored two touchdowns in the Georgia Dome, and I gave them what they’ve seen my entire career. There was no ill will in terms of me getting out of there, but I was damn sure glad to leave.”
Crumpler, 30, said the players learned to handle the situation with the Vick case that included a federal indictment and eventual prison sentence for the former star quarterback.
But it was Petrino’s leadership, or lack thereof, that Crumpler took the most issue with.
“We came together with that [Vick] situation, and we felt like we were going to be able to manage the thing,” Crumpler said. “But we didn’t have anybody that could steer the ship. The captain bolted after 13 [games]. It was a bad situation.”
Crumpler has been able to rededicate himself to football both physically and mentally this off-season, and the Titans, who signed him to a two-year, $5 million deal in early March, might reap the benefits of that.
“My last couple of off-seasons had been kind of filled with rehab,” Crumpler said. “I had shoulder surgery three years ago. I had knee surgery the last couple of years, and I didn’t have anything this year. That time has allowed my body to kind of heal up. I feel good. I feel fresh. I feel able to just go out there and do the things that mentally I’ve been telling myself I could do, but now I’m seeing myself doing them.”
Since joining the Titans, Crumpler had shed 15 pounds and, though he declined to say what is current weight is, he said he is “close” to the 262 pounds he is listed at on the roster.
The former Pro Bowl player is providing a good example for the other tight ends to follow as well.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him. To have a guy like him, I learn things from him and like to pick his brain, so he’s definitely going to help me,” said tight end Bo Scaife, whose relationship with Crumpler dates back to college. Scaife’s position coach at Texas, Tim Brewster, was Crumpler’s position coach at North Carolina.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher likes the approach Crumpler brings as well.
“Alge has fit in very nicely. He’s been a pro. He’s got a good sense and feel for what we’re doing,” Fisher said. “I think they just look at him that he does the right things for the most part. If he does make a mistake, he owns up to it. He finishes plays and he likes the game. It’s important to come out here and enjoy the game, and it’s clear he likes it.”
Crumpler’s enjoyment shows in his work as he has yet to miss a day of the off-season work.
“I’ve been here going on my ninth straight week. I’ve got 100 percent attendance in the off-season program,” Crumpler said. “I’ve been working every day and haven’t been in the training room. This is by far the best I’ve had off-season-wise in the last couple of years.”
OUT AND INJURED: Receiver Mike Williams sat out most of practice after tweaking his right ankle in one-on-one drills Friday. The injury did not appear serious as Williams watched the remainder of practice after getting the ankle taped.
Starting cornerbacks Nick Harper and Cortland Finnegan were both backed down Friday because of tightness, leaving Reynaldo Hill and Eric King to run with the first-string defense.
Bryce Fisher (military obligation) and Chris Carr (excused for personal reasons were absent, while Roydell Williams (ankle) and Ken Amato (knee) remain out with injuries.
FIGHT: Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and guard Leroy Harris got into a brief skirmish toward the end of practice with Vanden Bosch landing a roundhouse left to Harris’ back before the fracas was broken up.
“They’re competing out there. If anybody can put something behind them, it’s Kyle. If anybody is going to go full speed every time, it’s Kyle. But they settled down,” Fisher said.
MOVING UP?: When the Titans went to a three-receiver set, second-year man Biren Ealy was in the slot.
"It's good to get a chance to work on some chemistry with Vince [Young]," Ealy said.
Asked if he has a chip on his shoulder because he came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent last year, Ealy responded, "I'd have a chip on my shoulder even if I was a first-round pick, because there's a guy across from me whose job it is to try and stop me."