NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
Mooney played running back for Army, graduated from West Point and fulfilled his military commitment before joining the Titans as a 26-year-old rookie free agent this spring.
Mooney is competing with four-year pro
“It’s a great inspiration to see those soldiers, and to be able to support them and have them support us, it’s really motivating,” Mooney said. “To see them out there in their uniforms and everything kind of takes me back to where I was a few months ago. It makes me remember what it’s all about.”
Titans coach Mike Munchak personally welcomed and thanked the men and women at the start of practice. The Titans have had a great relationship with Fort Campbell since the franchise arrived in Tennessee, and Tuesday marked the second straight year in which the team welcomed a large group from the post.
The soldiers were able to watch from a close proximity and able to take pictures with and get autographs from Titans players and cheerleaders.
“It’s fun to see them come out and actually have a day where they can relax,” said Munchak, who also signed autographs. “I can’t imagine what they go through on a daily basis, stress-wise and what’s on their minds. I know a lot of them are about to deploy to Afghanistan, so we’ve been trying to get them out here on a good day for them. Really, this is perfect, because the practice was closed.
“A couple hundred soldiers wanted to come down, and we wanted to have a chance to thank them for their service and what they’ve done for the country,” Munchak continued. “Even though they’re big fans of ours, we’re big fans of theirs. We wish them well as they get ready to head out and wanted to tell them how proud we are of their commitment and sacrifice that they make and that their families have made. The players obviously enjoy it, so it’s a great situation for both of us.”
Mooney said most soldiers asked him about his experiences in the Army instead of his time with the Titans.
“That’s something that I like because we can connect in that way,” Mooney said. “We have that similar bond.”
Mooney said he’s approached training camp with a mindset of representing “that (military) uniform and that name on that uniform. That’s what I want to try to do and I want to represent them the best that I can.” He’s also used his past experience to help him.
“I’ve tried to carryover what I did in the Army, as far as being very regimented and disciplined, here,” Mooney said. “It feels very similar to me, especially since I just got out a few months ago, so I still kind of have an Army mindset. I was in it for three years, but I think I’m starting to adjust.”
ROOKIES RECEIVE HAIRCUTS: Mooney and some other Titans rookies are adjusting to new haircut styles that were administered by teammates at their position groups. Mooney received a design pattern on each side of his head that included a star.
“I hope (the soldiers) understand it’s just some rookie hazing,” Mooney said. “It’s not a normal thing. If I was still in the Army, this would be way against any kind of regs. It’s not the norm, but I’m trying to make the best of it.”
It was more of an adjustment for center
Mooney, however, said he cut his hair short his junior and senior years of high school because he had a teammate who was going into the Air Force, then let it grow out before it was shaved at West Point.
“The haircut thing has been by position group, so the o-linemen shaved their guys’ heads,” Mooney said. “The running backs were nice enough to take me to a barber shop, so at least it was professional. They took care of me.”
The older players are requiring the rookies who had haircuts to keep them the way they are until after Thursday’s game with Arizona at LP Field.
Munchak said he is OK with rookie initiation activities, as long as they don’t cross a line.
“I think there is a place for — maybe you don’t call it hazing — but having fun with the players,” Munchak said. “It’s kind of like a rite of passage. Everyone’s been through this as rookies. You’re almost through the toughest part of being a rookie, training camp. I think it’s fun. I enjoy it. I thought it was part of the deal. Just so it doesn’t go over the line. Putting guys in hot tubs or cold tubs or throwing their clothes in, doing things that don’t hurt someone, I think, is good and making them sing, making them uncomfortable in different ways and whatever it is. I think all that is part of anything, of acceptance. Just so it doesn’t get out of hand.
Munchak recalled the haircuts bit being in the organization for decades, saying, “I don’t remember it my rookie year, but I remember it after that. Bruce (Matthews), myself and (Dean) Steinkuhler got that baby started.”
The Houston Oilers drafted Munchak in 1982, Matthews in 1983 and Steinkuhler in 1984 with their first-round picks. Munchak said the switch from players staying in a college dorm to a hotel during training camp has reduced some of the hijinks.
“I just think there were a lot of night visits to rookies’ rooms that don’t happen these days,” Munchak said. “Somehow I think veterans got the keys to the dorm rooms, and that was back when we stayed in dorm so you could get away with more. You can’t really do that at hotels as well as you can at dorms. I think there were a lot of guys that didn’t rest very well during training camp because they knew that the older guys had a key to their room. It led to a lot of fun, but as always, things can get out of hand. So it’s probably better we’re not doing those things anymore.”
HARPER TO WELCOME HIGH SCHOOL:
Harper purchased 70 tickets for his former high school, which will be traveling through the area to play a game Saturday in Louisville, Ky. Harper, in his second year with the Titans, has remained close to his high school coach Verlon Dorminey and current players.
“My head coach is my mentor, a second father,” Harper said. “We stay in contact pretty much every other week and talk to each other, even when I went to Clemson and now I’m here. I got back there this offseason, and had my first camp there and just always want to give back to those guys. A lot of them look up to me, so I’m just trying to be a positive role model.”
Harper said he looked forward to showing the team how Tennessee has become his new home.
“It’s going to be a blessing for all of them to be here in person and see the crowd and how Tennessee gets involved in it,” Harper said.
BRITT KEEPS WORKING:
The receiver, however, said he’s got a way to go before he is in football shape.
“You can’t really get into football shape (by) just running out there,” Britt said. “I don’t care how many sprints you do or how many times you run around the field. Nothing can get you in shape unless you’re out there with helmets on and shoulder pads on.”
Britt tore his right ACL and MCL against Denver on Sept. 25, 2011, and had two surgeries on that knee and a surgery on his left knee this summer.
“I believe if I didn’t have that setback I’d be practicing with the fellas right now,” Britt said, “but I got that little bump in the road that set me back right now and I’m trying to heal from that.”
NATIONAL AUDIENCE: Thursday’s game with the Cardinals marks the Titans’ return to LP Field, the official unveiling of stadium enhancements and a national broadcast on ESPN.
Chris Berman, a long-time fixture and entertaining anchor since the beginning days of the all-sports network will handle his first play-by-play duties, and be joined by Trent Dilfer in the booth and Rachel Nichols as the sidelines reporter.
The ESPN broadcast will be carried locally by News 2 WKRN.