Jordan Babineaux is not inclined to turn down many opportunities to get on the football field.
In seven seasons with Seattle, he appeared in 99 contests but started just 28 times. Most of his chances, therefore, came as a situational substitute on defense and a special teams regular.
Earlier this season, his first with the Tennessee Titans, he did have to beg off once, though. It was in Week 4, immediately after he returned an interception 97 yards for a touchdown in a 31-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
“I am on kickoff [coverage], but that particular kick I just wouldn’t have been worth much of anything for my team,” he said.
Overall, the 29-year-old safety has been almost invaluable.
Signed as a free agent several days into training camp to provide veteran depth and knowledge of defensive coordinator Jerry Gray’s scheme, he instead has started three of the first five games in place of Chris Hope, who has been sidelined by two separate injuries.
Already, that’s three more starts than he had in his final season with the Seahawks and more than he’s made in half of his seasons in the league. He is the only member of the defense with both an interception and a fumble recovery. He also had a team-high nine tackles in a Sept. 25 victory over Denver, the second of his three starts.
“It certainly feels good,” Babineaux said. “I prepare every week as if I’m a starter. I take notes on multiple positions and I look forward to whatever opportunity I have and I’m ready to embrace it.
“… I’m ready to go and I’m ready to prove to my teammates that I’m a guy they can count on and — given an opportunity to make those plays — I’m going to make them.”
Even with his limited opportunities in Seattle, he left no doubt about his ability to make plays. He was knows as “Big Play Babs” because of his flair for the dramatic, which included six straight seasons with at least one interception (10 picks in all), three fumble recoveries and a timely playoff tackle of Dallas’ Tony Romo after Romo famously mishandled the snap on a potential game-winning field goal.
“I have a new sense of life and a new sense of fresh air here in Tennessee,” he said. I’m looking forward to making Nashville well [aware] of my alias. … It’s catchy. It’s something that’s trendy.
“Aside from that, I’m just about doing my job and going out there and making plays.”
The job of starting safety likely is his for at least one more week. Hope’s status for Sunday’s game against Houston (noon, LP Field) is undetermined because of a fractured forearm.
Hope’s latest injury occurred in the game at Cleveland. Babineaux replaced him in the first quarter and delivered the interception return early in the third. Even having skipped the one kickoff, he had a team-high three special teams tackles that day.
“I was a bit gassed, but I didn’t want any oxygen,” he said. “Really I was looking for some water so I could prepare myself to go back out there and see if I could do it again.”
Since his arrival, he's done pretty much exactly what the Titans expected.
"He’s a guy that we needed to get the job done," Gray said. "We knew he was going to compete. We knew he was going to play at a high level.
“He likes football. He comes out every day really early throwing the football around, doing a great job. To me, that’s the sign of a guy that really wants to play.”
Unless he absolutely has to catch his breath.