Titans welcome players, offer little activity amid lockout uncertainty

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 10:39pm

The Tennessee Titans didn’t turn away anyone on Tuesday.

But it wasn’t exactly business as usual at Baptist Sports Park.

One day after U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered an end to the NFL lockout, seven Titans players showed up at the team’s practice facility.

The owners requested a stay on Nelson’s court order on Monday, but she doesn’t plan to respond until Wednesday, giving players time to respond to the league’s request. As a result, things are still a little touchy across the NFL as some teams aren’t letting players work out at their facilities.

Titans Senior Executive Vice President Steve Underwood didn’t say if players were told to go home but said, “We really don’t have much for them to do.”

“We welcomed them,” Underwood said. “It has been a long time since we have had players in the building. We were glad to have them here. I sat down and visited with each of the players personally. Some of them wanted to go to their locker. Some of them sort of wanted to understand what was going on. ... The players are, of course, welcome to come to the facility.”

Underwood added that the league, the union and the Titans franchise were “still seeking additional clarification of what the various rights of the parties are under those papers.” If Nelson turns down the owners’ request, the NFL will most likely appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, the 2011 draft starts on Thursday. Titans General Manager Mike Reinfeldt tried to steer clear of any lockout-related questions at a pre-draft press conference on Tuesday. But he did acknowledge the impact it has, especially considering that, if the lockout continues, teams will not be able to sign rookie free agents after the draft.

“The good thing is we have the extra two compensatory picks,” Reinfeldt said. “That helps us with the extra fourth [round pick] and the extra seventh [round pick] which gives us nine [draft picks]. We will still go through the same process. We will grade those guys and we will get ready to go [on signing free agents] whenever we get the word to go on it. We will use those players to fill out our roster.”

As for the players the Titans draft this weekend, team officials will have to cease contact with new players after the draft concludes on Saturday. Reinfeldt said the team will most likely bring in the first- and second-round selections to meet the media. He did not say if the players would receive a playbook or how much interaction there would be with coaches and front office staff.

“I believe it is just for media purposes,” Reinfeldt said. “… We will continue contact throughout the draft from our scouts and coaches with players that we have interest in, just like we always would.”

Draft strategy could be affected too.

The Titans have the eighth pick in the first round and 39th overall pick in the second round. They could trade a 2012 first-round pick to snag a late first-round pick in this year’s draft.
 But with an unknown future ahead, Reinfeldt didn’t see that happening.

“I think it is tough because there is more unknown,” he said. “We all assume there is going to be a draft next year, we don’t know that for sure. I think there is a certain element of unknown there. I’m personally hesitant to trade future number one round draft picks. It doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen.”