Brett Kern viewed the 136-day NFL lockout as an extended vacation.
Jared Cook was a little more tense, saying he didn’t enjoy being “unemployed.”
Maybe that’s the difference between a punter and a tight end, but both Tennessee Titans players were happy to be back at Baptist Sports Park on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the players and owners reached a new collective bargaining agreement.
“I had a feeling that something [positive] would be done,” said Kern, who will begin his second full season as the Titans’ punter. “I didn’t think we were going to miss any games. It was just way too important — on both sides. Honestly, I really didn’t think about it much in the offseason. I had a great time with my family. I went to the beach and relaxed. It was good to hang out.”
More than 20 players shuffled in within two hours of the gate being unlocked at 9 a.m. Among the notable Titans to arrive were rookie quarterback Jake Locker, who was the first to show up, linebacker Gerald McRath, wide receiver Damian Williams and defensive tackle Tony Brown.
“It is nice to drive by and come in and not have the lock on the gate — actually get a friendly smile when you come in,” offensive tackle Michael Roos said.
While it has been a slow-go the past few months, the pace will speed up during the next few days. Players will report for training camp on Friday, and the first practice is set for Saturday.
The quick turnaround isn’t ideal for any NFL team, but it especially hurts the Titans, a team with a new head coach, new coordinators and a new quarterback. Some players hadn’t even met their new position coaches or coordinators as a new staff was built in February, shortly before the lockout began.
“Of course you feel pressure,” Cook said. “You haven’t met with your coaches all year, and then in a few weeks you have the season coming around. You’ve got camp starting on Friday. So of course you are going to get pressure to get things done.”
The Titans have their work cut out for them before training camp begins. They could start signing their nine-member draft class on Tuesday, along with picking up undrafted free agents. But they’ll have to wait until after 5 p.m. on Friday to sign veteran free agents.
The Titans signed veteran Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on Wednesday. The team is expected to release or trade Vince Young before Friday.
They will also have to decide if they want to keep some of their own. Jason Babin wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that he hadn’t heard from the Titans yet. The defensive end is a free agent and is reportedly being pursued by the Chicago Bears. In addition, linebacker Stephen Tulloch, fullback Ahmad Hall and guard Leroy Harris are free agents.
While there is a sigh of relief that football is here, the Titans realize there are steep challenges ahead as they try to rebound from a 6-10 season.
“It is time to go to work,” McRath said. “It is time to pick up from where we left off. From where we left off last year is very low, so we have a long way to go. For us, the season starts right now if we want to get back to even and start excelling and improving this organization the way that everybody looks at the Titans, and the way they expect us to play.”