There is no reason to think that, given his Hall of Fame credentials as a player, Mike Munchak would be all talk as the Tennessee Titans head coach.
Less than a week into his first taste of actually coaching players, though, the power of words already has been put to the test.
He helped talk one, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, into signing with the team. That was a good start.
He also told wide receiver Kenny Britt and running back Chris Johnson what he expects from them and what he considers their respective value to the team. It remains to be seen whether those two listened.
“I’ll talk to — at some point — hopefully all of our senior members, all of our older players,” Munchak said Friday, prior to the start of evening meetings on the opening day of training camp. “A lot of these guys don’t know me personally. … This is the first time I’ve been in this position for them.”
Munchak was elevated from offensive line coach to head coach in early February, roughly two weeks after the departure of his predecessor, Jeff Fisher.
A little more than a month later, NFL owners imposed a lockout. With that, Munchak, whose focus initially was to retool the coaching staff, was prohibited from all contact with his players for more than four months.
During that time, Britt was arrested twice and faced other legal issues, including a lawsuit filed against him related to a citation he was issued over a previous incident at a local nightclub.
Munchak indicated he had no plans to take any disciplinary action against Britt regarding the arrests but did meet with the third-year wide receiver Friday afternoon.
It is unclear whether the league will punish Britt, but it’s clear that any future legal entanglements will have consequences, likely a lengthy suspension.
“We just had a real good talk,” Munchak said. “I got a feel for where he’s been and what he’s been going through. I’m looking forward to a fresh start — new season, new head coach, new staff. We have big plans and he’s part of them. So we’re just going to kind of take it from there.”
Britt, a first-round draft pick in 2010, led the Titans last season in receiving yards (775), yards per catch (18.5) and touchdown receptions (nine). His 80-yard touchdown reception against Philadelphia was the offense’s longest play of the season.
“I just talked about his importance to this team,” Munchak said. “I wanted him to know exactly how we felt about him, how much we rely on him — not just me but his teammates. I think he realizes that.”
Johnson, the 2009 first-round selection, might be the only player more important to the offense.
The team’s leading rusher in each of his three seasons and the NFL’s 2009 Offensive Player of the Year heard from Munchak on Thursday yet was the team’s only no-show when camp opened.
Johnson wants to renegotiate his contract, which has two remaining years.
“We talked about a half hour,” Munchak said. “Obviously, I’ve worked with Chris very closely all three years he’s been here. So we had a certain relationship there. We got along pretty well. Had a good talk. … I just kind of reinforced my feelings … about how important he was [to the team]. We all know that. That’s a no-brainer. Just so he knew about our changes at quarterback and what our plans were with the new system and that kind of stuff. He was excited.
“[I was] hoping he’d be in. I thought he would. No reason to think he wouldn’t be.”
Yet he was not.
The changes at quarterback were topped by the addition of Hasselbeck, who signed his contract Friday, the first day he was eligible to do so. The deal was agreed to two days earlier, however, in the wake of a conversation between the veteran quarterback and the rookie coach.
“Philosophically, I just really liked where he was with the offensive line,” Hasselbeck said. “To me, the offensive line is the most important part of your team. … Just to hear where he was coming from and where his priority was on that, that meant a lot to me.”
Now, if he can get Johnson into camp and keep Britt out of trouble, that really will say something.