Kerry Collins admits it’s been a long time since he has been this excited entering an NFL season.
And why shouldn’t he be excited? The Titans finished 13-3 a year ago under his leadership, and have made a concerted effort to add more weapons on the offensive side of the ball with the aim of helping Collins and the Titans go further in the postseason than the past couple of years.
“I’ve worked out more in this off-season than I have in the last several,” Collins said. “I’ve been in here everyday and I’ve really put a lot of time in in the weight room, more so than I have in several years in the past.
This is from a veteran many folks thought would be enjoying his retirement from the NFL by now.
“I feel rejuvenated, [that’s the] bottom line,” he said. “I feel really good, but at the same time, I’m coming into my 15th year, so I don’t have forever. I’m trying to do everything I can to do everything possible to get ready to have a good year.”
The Titans seem to be doing their part to help Collins improve the passing game from a year ago, importing free agent wide receiver Nate Washington from Pittsburgh and adding rookie receiver Kenny Britt in the first-round and tight end Jared Cook in the third.
On Tuesday, Collins and the rookies got their first chance to work together.
“Getting a receiver with the first pick is obviously a big deal for me and the offense,” Collins said. “And the other guys we drafted, everybody is excited about the third-rounder [Cook] from South Carolina, so we’ll see what they’ve got.
“It doesn’t happen a lot around here. I’m glad it did this year. I think we’ve upgraded at a lot of positions, and I think wide receiver is one of them.”
Few will argue that it was the running game and a tenacious defense that carried the team to its 13 wins and a playoff spot. Collins was no slouch, but his efforts were workman-like — the numbers weren’t flashy — but effective, especially when the savvy vet rarely turned the ball over or threw bad passes.
And now, while the Titans aren’t likely to throw the football 40 times a game, even with all the new additions, an improved passing game could help bring some much-needed balance to the offense.
In last season’s divisional playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Titans’ lack of offensive explosiveness was seriously exposed after running back Chris Johnson departed with a sprained ankle. Adding to the offensive arsenal has been a priority for 2009.
“You’re always looking to upgrade all the positions, and we feel like we were able to do that,” Titans Coach Jeff Fisher said. “We still have an offensive philosophy, and that’s to do whatever it takes to win the ballgame, whether that’s running it or picking it up and throwing it.”
Receiver Justin Gage, who did step up with 10 receptions in that playoff game, believes more will be better for the Titans offense this year.
“It’ll definitely make my job easier. It’ll give defenses something else to focus on, along with our run game,” Gage said. “It’ll keep the defenses honest from head to toe. You can’t just focus on one guy. You can’t just focus on the run game or playing a receiver in double coverage. You have to play us honest, and I think that will make us tough to stop.”
For Collins, it is a bit of what Gage describes, but also knowing he comes into the season as the starter has put a little extra bounce in Collins’ step this off-season.
“Knowing that I’m going to be the starter, it definitely changes my approach to the off-season. I’ll be getting to work with the first team, and we can take things that we did last year and build on it,” Collins said. “I’m looking forward to it, and I think everybody is excited about getting back to work.”