The Tennessee Titans newest draft class made their way around the indoor practice bubble on Friday, and all but one was wearing a practice jersey.
Former University of Kentucky running back Rafael Little was a spectator at the practice because of a torn ACL in his left knee that will sideline him for all of 2008.
But there was another reason Little had only a white t-shirt as opposed to a numbered practice jersey. He had removed it earlier during the first workout.
Little had been given practice jersey No. 32, the number previously worn by Adam “Pacman” Jones, who was traded to the Dallas Cowboys last week.
“He’s not going to be wearing that, only because we had discussed it this morning. For some reason, someone told him to get dressed and come out. But that won’t be his number,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “He would prefer to wear a different number than 32. You can read into it all you want.”
Jones remains on suspension even while being traded. Fisher was asked if he was retiring 32, to which he said no.
Asked if it the number was being exorcised, the coach said, “We’re sending it to Dallas.”
As for his part regarding a jersey, Little said he would have taken “any number they give me. I just want to get out there and play. That was my biggest thing.”
The Titans will give Little the entire season to rehab the knee so he can be ready to compete as a running back and punt returner for 2009. He originally injured the knee during Senior Bowl practices.
“I just took it in a positive way,” Little said of the injury. “I knew there was a possibility I would get picked, but it still got me somewhere. I’m just happy to be here.”
The San Francisco 49ers offered Little a similar deal to the Titans, to come in as an undrafted free agent, but he took the deal that was closer to his South Carolina home.
He went to the NFL Combine while on crutches, and said that was tough to take.
“I pretty much hate watching stuff when I can’t do it, but I know I’ve got to deal with it,” Little said. “I felt like I could have been faster than some people, but things happen for a reason.”
FINISHING UP: Starting quarterback Vince Young was in town Thursday and met several members of the rookie class. According to Fisher, Young will take his last exam this semester at the University of Texas on Monday and report full-time for the remainder of the off-season program on Tuesday.
SPEEDY BACK: First-round pick Chris Johnson was the fastest player at the NFL
Combine with a 4.24 time in the 40-yard dash. Johnson showed that speed when he pulled away from fourth-round pick Stanford Keglar, a linebacker from Purdue, on a one-on-one drill from the backfield.
Even though the pass was uncatchable, Johnson’s speed impressed Keglar.
“He’s an amazing athlete and he’s got amazing speed. I can probably say he’s the fastest person I’ve ever lined up again,” said Keglar, who played in the Big Ten. “It’s great to be on his team and to have that guy on my team instead of him being on the other sideline.”
Johnson was used a number of different ways at East Carolina, and offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger plans to give him “as much as he can handle” in terms of using him as a weapon. (Running backs coach Earnest Byner made up a couple of routes for Johnson to execute on Friday, and the rookie took to it well).
Johnson’s speed will translate on the football field, says Fisher.
“It’s useful speed,” Fisher said. “It’s not just straight-line speed, and it’s combined with lateral quickness. You’ve got a guy with track speed playing football. Some guys are track guys trying to play, but they don’t have the lateral quickness and change of direction. That’s what he has.”
And Johnson said football has always been his top athletic priority.
“I’ve always been a football player first. I didn’t run track until the ninth grade, and I’ve been playing football since I was 12 or 13,” Johnson said.
IMPRESSIVE: Undrafted rookie receiver Jason Rivers showed good hands, as Fisher was quick to point out when asked.
“He had 285 catches in college, so he can catch the football,” Fisher said.