Alterraun Verner didn’t have time to listen to all of messages on his phone immediately following Saturday’s preseason opener at Seattle.
Not only that, the Tennessee Titans’ rookie cornerback did not necessarily want to listen to what some of his teammates and coaches had to say about his performance in that game even though it was overwhelmingly positive.
“If I just keep on relying on words and what people keep on praising me about … most people would probably cave in and not work,” he said. “I still have a lot to prove. I still want to help this team out anyway possible. So I like the compliment, but I’m just going to keep on working, trying to get better every day.”
The fourth-round draft pick out of UCLA worked as long and as hard as anyone in the Titans’ 20-18 loss to the Seahawks. With starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan, nickel back Vincent Fuller and veteran free agent cornerback Tye Hill all sidelined with injuries, Verner spent the first half as the starting nickel back and most of the second half as a cornerback.
He finished the night with four tackles, tied for second-most on the team. Predictably, four of the top seven Titans in terms of tackles were cornerbacks.
“I felt comfortable in both spots,” Verner said. “I feel comfortable being just being on the field anyway possible. … Unfortunately with people being down, I just look at it as an opportunity to just try to show my talents. Then when they come back (I’m going to) keep on grinding.”
It was his second-half interception that really had people talking. He broke quickly when the intended receiver ran a curl and then dove and caught the ball just above the playing surface and gave the offense possession at the Seahawks’ 28.
“Regardless of who you are, that’s an excellent catch – to be able to catch that ball and keep it off the ground and make that play,” veteran wide receiver Justin Gage said. “Just his footwork on that play and to break on the ball, he was exceptional.”
Added coach Jeff Fisher: “Most receivers drop that ball. That was really a great example of hand-eye coordination and concentration.”
The Titans’ top two 2010 draft picks – defensive end Derrick Morgan and wide receiver Damian Williams – have been slowed and/or sidelined by injury since the start of training camp by injury. Neither played against Seattle.
That combined with the depth issues at cornerback have positioned Verner to make the biggest early impact of anyone in the draft class.
“The one thing at that spot is you need to know where your help is, and he’s very much aware of where his help is,” Fisher said. “And he’s doing the little things right, which is good to see.”
Just don’t let him hear that.
Free agent rookie running back LeGarrette Blount apologized to Fisher for throwing a punch at defensive lineman Eric Bakhtiari near the end of Wednesday evening’s workout.
“I apologized to him and to the rest of my coaches,” Blount said. “I promised to him that that was behind me and it’s in my past. It just came up again, and I got into one of those situations where the defense pushed me too far. But with training camp being the way it is, everything being as intense as it is and me being a rookie … it was something I shouldn’t have done but I did it anyway.”
Blount became one of the more notorious players in college football last season when he punched an unsuspecting Boise State player during an altercation between the teams. That resulted in a suspension, which caused him to miss most of the season and likely prevented him from being drafted.