With an array of changes to the roster and the coaching staff, the Tennessee Titans certainly look different.
They also sound different.
“[We’re] having some smack talk and getting up in each other a little bit, but doing it for the overall purpose of getting better as a team,” quarterback Jake Locker said. “…I think competition heightens the level of play for everybody. So anytime you’re able to compete it allows you to get more out of yourself then maybe you thought you would have. As a result of that you get better.”
Organized team activities (OTAs) conclude this week and a minicamp is set for next week. The start of training camp is more than a month away and the regular season does not begin for nearly three months.
Much remains to be seen in regard to the impact of the offseason overhaul. Already, though, it is obvious that these Titans do not practice in the same manner as those of recent years.
Even in the OTAs, when players wear shorts, don’t use shoulder pads and strict limits are in place about the amount of allowable contact, there is an intensity that has not existed for maybe a decade or more. On Monday, a period of work on short passes near the goal line had players on both offense and defense fully engaged and cheering their respective units.
“You always want that,” coach Mike Munchak said. “… You want the energy. I think the type of players you have helps bring that out. Then when I think the team feels good about what they’re doing and really sees how we maybe can be on both sides of the ball and special teams, the excitement even adds more to it. They think there’s a huge benefit to it.
“[They think], ‘We can get better right now. We can come together as a team this time of year as we get to know each other.’ They’re learning the coaching staff and their personalities.”
One addition to the coaching staff came with specific orders to help pump up the attitude of practice sessions.
Senior assistant/defense Gregg Williams was well-known for his intensity and interaction with the players when he was the defensive coordinator from 1997-2000. His return following one stint as a head coach and time with three other franchises has shown that little, if anything, has changed about his approach.
“That was one of the things that [Munchak] asked me to do when I got here,” Williams said. “… [Munchak] asked that about how we practice, and for me to be a participant in that.
“… I feel like I’m home. … It’s just been a real good match and a real comfortable match for everybody.”
Players say they have noticed the difference with the likes of Williams, wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and linebackers coach Chet Parlavecchio, all of whom are among the more energetic and vocal coaches anywhere. Not all of them, though, believe that coaches are necessary to create that dynamic.
“For me, it’s just love of the game,” linebacker Zach Brown said. “You shouldn’t have to have somebody out there hollering, ‘You have to go.’ As soon as you step on that football field, you have to go, you have to take it to another notch.”
None of it guarantees results in the fall, but the difference as compared to recent years is undeniable.
Given that Tennessee has failed to reach the playoffs each of the last four years, however, players and coaches are quick to embrace any signs of change.
“You hear a lot of things,” Munchak said. “You sit in meetings. But until you get out and compete against each other you really don’t know what you have and what kind of team, what kind of personality we’re going to have.
“I think you’re seeing that. You’re seeing more of the players take it over rather than it be all coaches. Maybe that’s the good part of it, that it’s not just us manufacturing it as coaches. You’re seeing them enjoying practicing. You’re seeing them enjoying competing. And that’s a good thing.”