A week into the Tennessee Titans off-season program, participation is near 100 percent, according to strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson.
“I’m never happy until it’s 100 percent, but with that said, I’ve only got two guys that are not here,” Watterson said.
Watterson deferred to Coach Jeff Fisher for the names of the two absentees in the program, but sounded pleased that the team already reported for the 14-week program in shape.
“Everybody is here and they’re working hard,” Watterson said. “Guys came in in good shape and with good body weight. I really do think this is a springboard for things. Last year, was only time first time in 25 years and the only I’ve time ever said that it was the best off-season ever had. And so far this year, guys are jumping in and replicating what we had last off-season. Plus, there have been a few little tweaks here and there.”
All-Pro cornerback Cortland Finnegan echoed Watterson’s enthusiasm that so many players have chosen to participate in the off-season work.
“We’re right about 50 [players] and some change,” Finnegan said. “We’ve got all our leaders back, and that’s always a good thing.”
*As for some of the individuals of note regarding this off-season, there has been plenty of talk about second-year defensive tackle Jason Jones, the heir apparent to Albert Haynesworth in the starting lineup.
Jones, a rookie second-round pick last year, was listed at around 275 pounds last season, but according to Watterson, his weight dipped into the 260s for a portion of the year.
“He dwindled down into high 60s last year, during a time when he hadn’t felt well. We got back to around [273 or 274],” Watterson said.
Jones arrived at Baptist Sports nearly a month ago to get ready for the 2009 season and the bigger role that would come his way. He is already up to 278 pounds, and Watterson believes Jones can easily be in the 280-285 range by the time training camp begins in July.
“He’s been here for over a month already,” Watterson said. “He came back way early and has continued to train.
“Obviously I know we’re gonna be able to crack the 80 mark with him, and I’m not even afraid to bring him up to 285.”
*Also, along the defensive line, Kyle Vanden Bosch, one of the leaders of not only the defense, but the entire Titans team, is back and readying himself for a comeback season. Vanden Bosch was never himself in 2008 after tearing his groin in October, an injury that eventually required surgery.
“Personally, I’ve spent the last couple of months making sure groin injury was behind me and making sure I could hit the ground running,” Vanden Bosch said. “It’s always important to me to be in shape for off-season conditioning, and to be leader for the group. If I’m asking guys to push themselves, I always have to make sure I’m in best shape I can be and be out front.”
The Titans went through some rigorous agility drills, such as a five-cone drill, in the practice bubble on Tuesday, and Vanden Bosch said he made it a point to test the groin injury _ a test it passed, he said.
“We’ve had a couple of days where we’ve hit agility drills pretty hard and feel like I’ve been able to go out there and cut. Some things that might be problematic with a groin injury I’ve had no problem with,” Vanden Bosch said.
*One player who is buying into even more this off-season as a team leader is quarterback Kerry Collins. Collins, according to Watterson, dropped about 25 pounds a year ago, but now might add some weight back because of his increased weightlifting during the program.
“Kerry Collins has really bought into our lifting and training this off-season,” Watterson said. “He was down in excess of 25 pounds last year, and now we’re actually gonna have him gain a couple of pounds because he’s working out so much now. He’s lifting and running and with the regular groups, and he’ s put on about five pounds.”
Collins played at around 225 to 230 last year, but Watterson said five pounds of muscle will only help the starting quarterback, especially if he has to absorb any hits.
“Five pounds on his fame really isn’t much,” Watterson said. “But if it’s muscle mass it’s gonna bode well for him.”
*Running back LenDale White is more than 20 pounds less than what he reported to the off-season program at last year. White, who is listed at 235 pounds on the team’s website, has had plenty of issues with weight in the past, as two years ago his weight was near 270 pounds at the start of the off-season program.
Watterson declined to give White’s exact weight, but said, “He reported last week. He was more than 20 pounds less than what he reported last year.”
*Finnegan is hosting his second annual Karaoke for a Cure at the Cabana in Nashville on April 1.
“We’re going to have a good old time,” Finnegan said. “There are a ton of guys, including some songwriters scheduled to be there.”
Several of Finnegan’s teammates are also expected to attend.
The event is the first under the umbrella of Finnegan’s new charitable foundation, ARK 31. According to Finnegan, ARK, not only represents Noah’s Ark, but also stands for Acts of Random Kindness.