Fellow Tennessee Titans offensive linemen figure they could give Kevin Matthews a hard time by telling him how easy he had it.
Undrafted out of Texas A&M in 2010, he spent the majority of last fall on the practice squad but benefited from some playing time — he started the final contest — following a late addition to the active roster.
That helped when he entered training camp this summer. Others, though, might have said he had a significant advantage by virtue of the fact that his father, former Titans great Bruce Matthews, was the team’s new offensive line coach. Some, in fact, did — but not in earnest.
“They already gave me crap before camp started, telling me I made the team,” he said. “But they knew that wasn’t true. They’re older guys. They understand the business part of the game.”
The Titans kept 10 offensive linemen — an unusually large number — last weekend when they made their final preseason cuts and reduced the roster to the NFL maximum of 53 players.
Matthews was among them, yet there was no sense that his inclusion was an act of charity.
“I think offensive linemen are hard to find, so if you have good ones, you are trying to find a way to protect them and keep them because if you do have an injury, you find out how valuable they are,” coach Mike Munchak, a former offensive lineman, said. “It seems like teams hoard them. … We were in a position with the back end of the roster that this seemed to be the smartest way to go for right now.”
The 6-foot-3, 302-pound guard/center went through the same evaluation process as every other player who attempted to make. That meant daily discussions among personnel executives, scouts and coaches — including his father — abut his strengths and weaknesses.
His efforts were stalled temporarily by an ankle injury. It caused him to miss three workouts and the preseason game against Chicago, one in which he was not expected to play much anyway.
“I told him to make real clear what your situation is,” Bruce Matthews said. “By and large, he’s been real solid so it’s been real easy to talk about him even if I am very biased, like I’ve always said.
“I feel I’m being fairly objective, but there’s that part of me that isn’t.”
The elder Matthews, in fact, unabashedly says Kevin Matthews is “my favorite player on the team.” That, he figures, also gives him license to razz his son as much as, if not more than, any of his teammates can or do.
“I don’t know that I go out of my way to not show favoritism at times,” Bruce Matthews said. “Then there are times I’m very overt about it in the meeting rooms. Especially with the other players, I make it a point to try to embarrass him.
“But it’s good. It’s been everything I hoped it was going to be.”
To say Kevin Matthews’ lineage played absolutely no part in the situation would be impossible.
Bruce Matthews, of course, set NFL records for longevity and Pro Bowl appearances as a player and ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The son undoubtedly gained unusual insight that has served him well from the first moment he got into a three-point stance, including his recent, successful effort to make the team.
“It wouldn’t be satisfying to say I made the team because my dad pulled strings or anything like that,” Kevin Matthews said. “I like to think I earned it. That’s how it is in the NFL. There’s limited rosters so they’re not going to keep someone just because he’s someone’s son.
“I must have done something right because I’m still around.”
That means more time spent with his father, and more time absorbing his share of ribbing — and then some.
“I don’t know how you couldn’t enjoy having your dad as a coach,” he said. “He probably rags on me a little bit harder than everyone else, but I expected it. It’s probably because he’s more comfortable with me … and I’m young.
“So I get it from the vets and my dad. No big deal, though, it’s all in good fun.”