Chad Ochocinco has played soccer and ridden a bull (sort of). Hines Ward has hoisted a trophy for his ability to dance. Reggie Bush tweeted about being “on vacation.”
Seemingly every NFL player has approached the lockout enacted by league owners nearly three months ago in a different way. Some will work hard while others, inevitably, will allow themselves and their conditioning to slip to levels lower than they’ve been in years.
On a radio show in Austin, Texas, last week, Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin said his team “right now may be in the worst situation of all teams” based on the complete overhaul of the coaching staff, the uncertainty at quarterback, and all the resultant unknowns associated with those developments.
For the most part, Titans players have been low-key while on their own. There have been no reality television appearances or headline-grabbing departures from the norm. Yet it’s folly to think that each and every one of them has been sufficiently diligent in their efforts to prepare for the return to business as usual, whenever that happens.
Until then, all coaches, executives, owners and fans can do is wonder, and there are some for whom a higher degree of uncertainty exists. Here’s a look at some Titans who could have used the traditional offseason more than most.
Derrick Morgan, defensive end: Last season’s first-round draft pick watched extended portions of the 2010 offseason from the sidelines because of a hamstring injury. As such, he didn’t get a real feel for what players have to go through to prepare for 16 games. Predictably, his rookie season was cut short by an injury, and any opportunity to fulfill his significant potential was put on hold.
There’s no way to know how healthy Morgan is and whether his body is prepared to hold up, because players are locked out of training rooms — along with everything else. He’s missed an opportunity for extended rehabilitation under the direction of the Titans, who could have prepared training plans specific to his needs.
Kenny Britt, wide receiver: It has become an all-too-common offseason occurrence that the highly talented 2009 first-round selection gets into some legal trouble. The latest example was a New Jersey car chase in April, which resulted in three charges (one of them a felony) filed against Britt.
The 22-year-old is an unfailingly pleasant man who likes to have a good time, regardless of what he’s doing. When he’s doing what others — his coaches, for example — tell him to do, there is less of a chance he’ll stray. When left to his own imagination, things seem to get a bit hairy. The longer the lockout goes and Britt is left to his own devices, the greater the potential that he’ll end up in even more trouble.
Jared Cook, tight end: Cook is a physical marvel who showed some real improvement during the final weeks of his second season. Then offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, on the day his hiring was announced, singled out Cook as a player of particular interest when it came to designing his scheme. That was a lot of momentum for one player to carry into the offseason. No doubt, some of it has been lost.
The sooner he gets back into the offense and can build on what he accomplished last year, the better. The fresher those memories, the greater the impact they will have going forward.
Chris Hope, safety: The 30-year-old looked every bit of his age at times last season, and chances are he hit the ground running at the start of the offseason in an attempt to extend his career. It’s no secret in the NFL (or any professional sport, for that matter) that it gets progressively harder for a player to keep himself in playing shape during those times between the season and offseason workouts. The longer Hope has to put himself through that, the greater the temptation to decide it’s not worth the effort.
There’s no guarantee Hope will have a starting job this season, but a smart, experienced backup can have tremendous value, particularly when coaches are putting in new schemes. The Titans will want Hope around in one way or another.
Vince Young, quarterback: It is tough to imagine there’s anyone who wants to get on to the next season more than Young, just as it’s hard to think of a team more eager to be able to cut ties with an individual. Neither can happen at the moment. Until Young is waived or traded, he remains on the Titans roster. That means the book is not yet closed on one of the most uneven and confounding chapters in team history.
For Young, never a hard worker in the offseason, his chances to make a positive first impression with his next team diminish with each day. He’ll be motivated, wherever he goes, to prove the Titans wrong. But there’s also the possibility that he’ll be burdened by a little extra weight and the extended period of uncertainty about his future.