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Camp Notebook: Defenders 'Thud Up' in Pads

Posted Jul 27, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Saturday marked the first day of 2013 training camp that the Titans were in shoulder pads and the first opportunity to “thud up.”

Defensive players, especially look forward to that milestone and Sunday night’s practice that will be in full pads. It begins at 6:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Fans that attended Saturday heard the crisp thumping when a ball carrier and tackler tried to occupy the same space, but defenders tried to avoid taking offensive players all the way to the ground.

LB Akeem Ayers said the addition of shoulder pads allowed defenders the opportunity to "thud up" against offensive players.
Click here for a slideshow of Saturday's practice.

“Once we get the pads on, we’re able to pick the tempo up and pretty much play at game speed, we’re able to ‘thud up,’ ” Akeem Ayers said. “We’re able to hit guys and let them go, so I mean, when we’ve got shoulder pads and a helmet on, that’s as close as we’re going to get to game day. You actually can hit a running back and let him go, but when we don’t have the pads on, you’re pretty much just tagging off, so when the shoulder pads come on, we’re going at it.”

Quarterback Jake Locker said “competitive” is the best word to describe the first three days of camp, but said it further escalated on Saturday. Although QBs wear red, no contact jerseys, Locker took a little bit of a shot early in a team drill when a lineman was pushed into him, but said he liked the intensity that the offense and defense brought to each other.

“Guys came out juiced up and fired up today and I think you saw that and heard a lot of pads and helmets whacking, so I think that’s encouraging,” Locker said.

The Titans have emphasized competition throughout the offseason, but the addition of pads upped the ante. The increase in intensity led to multiple exchanges between offensive and defensive players and the two sides adjusted to a level of physicality they haven’t encountered in almost eight months. Tempers eventually flared between safety Michael Griffin and Michael Preston, with each player taking a swipe at the other. Several other players moved toward the action as it dissipated.

“At the end of the day, there’s no bad blood between anybody,” Griffin said. “Luckily everybody made it out unharmed and was able to finish practice.”

Fans on the sideline had a better view of the exchange than Titans coach Mike Munchak, who said it looked like a “no decision” from his vantage point.

“I think it’s just one of the things that flare up every so often,” Munchak said. “The guys are good friends plus they’re good competitors. You just don’t want guy’s swinging. You don’t want guys to get elevated to where someone could get hurt, luckily no one did, guys are just pulling each other off each other.” 

Griffin said players expect pads to ratchet things up another notch as camp continues and the Titans move toward their preseason opener against the Washington Redskins on Aug. 8 at LP Field.  

“It’s been roughly eight months. It’s about to be August, and the last time we played was back in December, so everybody’s getting used to the pads again and getting a little more comfortable,” Griffin said. “We’re going to have a team meeting, and they’ll elaborate more on what they want from us, especially with the pads on, but we’re taking the right steps to what our goals are.”

GIVE AND TAKE: Effort has been strong by players, but results have swayed between the offense and defense from play to play, drill to drill or period to period.

“It’s been really competitive on both sides of the ball,” Locker said. “If you watch any period, the defense wins a play, the offense wins a play and it’s going back and forth. I think that’s allowing both of us to make mistakes but be able to go in the film room and learn from those mistakes and hopefully not repeat them.”

Fans voiced their enjoyment of one-on-one drills that pitted receivers against defensive backs and pass rushers against offensive linemen.

Defensive back Coty Sensabaugh, equated the matchups with receivers to “iron sharpening iron.”

“We’re just making each other better, helping each other out and competing every day, which will help on Sundays,” Sensabaugh said. “I think as a whole, it’s good when it’s kind of a battle. As a defense, we want to win all of them but it’s good when the offense wins too because it means we’re getting better as a team and in order to win that championship we’re going to need the offense, defense and special teams helping.”

Munchak said he likes seeing the way each side responds to the other because the Titans will need such responses this season.

“I think as a head coach that’s what you want,” Munchak said. “You want these guys to be back and forth and competing. Some drills are 14 and 15 plays long so I think you see plays where the offense is making two or three good ones and the defense seems to rally. The offense starts looking flat, and the defense (wins) so it’s kind of nice to see them respond because that’s what we’re going be dealing with all season long. It’s good; we’ve been talking about the competition. I think we’re seeing some of that already. A long way to go, with a lot of things we need to do, but it’s a good start.”

HAMSTRING LIMITS SCHWENKE: Rookie center/guard Brian Schwenke’s first pro practice in shoulder pads ended early after he experienced soreness in his hamstring, but Munchak didn’t think it was going to be too serious.  

“Earlier he tried to push through it a little bit,” Munchak said. “When he was pushing off it he just felt it wasn’t quite right, so we took him out. We’ll evaluate him and see where he’s at. We don’t think it’s anything serious in that way, just more something that’s part of this time of year.  When you are kind of pushing through and for offensive lineman especially you have groin, hamstring [injuries]. We’ll be careful with him, but I’m assuming he’ll be OK.”

The Titans have Sunday’s full-pad practice before players have an off day Monday, so Titans coaches could opt to rest Schwenke to give him an extra day through the soreness.

Preseason Live: Tennessee Titans

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