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Camp Notebook: Wright Returns to Practice After Awkward Landing

Posted Aug 5, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A quick play with an awkward ending caused onlookers to take a deep breath Sunday at Titans training camp.

By the end of the open practice at Baptist Sports Park, however, the feeling was more a sigh of relief.

Receiver Kendall Wright, the Titans’ first-round selection of the 2012 NFL Draft, returned to action and made a couple of nice catches after being sidelined temporarily from an impact on a pass route against Tommie Campbell, whose arm came down on Wright’s helmet as the cornerback broke up the pass.

Wright went to the ground. Titans medical staff members examined Wright’s knee, and Campbell was the next person to check on him.

“He made a joke that if he hurt me, he’d have probably gotten cut, but I said, ‘No, you made a good play on the ball,’ ” Wright said.

Campbell, who was drafted in the seventh round and earned a roster spot in 2011, said he was relieved that Wright was OK.

“You never want to see one of your teammates get hurt, so I was just making sure he was OK,” Campbell said. “I just went for the ball and saw him go down.

“I mean he’s a first-round draft pick,” Campbell added. “You don’t want to be known as that guy who hurt the first-round draft pick, so I was just happy he got up because you don’t want to hurt your teammates. He told me he was fine.”

Campbell has moved beyond his primary role on special teams to a cornerback that coaches anticipate will play a significant amount this season when the Titans use five defensive backs. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck recently complimented Campbell for the coverage that he’s delivered during voluntary organized team activity practices and camp.

“What impresses me about Tommie is his press coverage technique (his man-to-man technique). He does a great job of covering guys in one-on-one situations,” Hasselbeck said. “He’s out there on raw, natural ability locking people down and making some plays. So if you take his ability and if he really learns some stuff from these coaches — we’ve got a really good staff — then he can be very, very good.”

Campbell said he appreciated the compliment, but added, “at the same time, none of that matters until I go out there and prove myself starting tomorrow, going against those receivers, and on Sundays. You can be a practice player or you can be a game player, so I’m just trying to really get better and when we play Atlanta and when we play at Seattle, I’ll hopefully play good.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said close calls can be part of football practices, but the play involved two young guys competing.

“Yeah, he’s OK,” Munchak said. “He went on and finished practice. That’s how it is with all these guys. It seems like three or four times a practice you hold your breath. The good thing is he got up and finished practice.”

Wright said it was “very important” for him to return to practice. He expects to be in the mix Monday when the Titans hold a joint practice with the Atlanta Falcons at Coahulla Creek High School in Dalton, Ga. The practice is free and open to fans of both teams and is scheduled from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Eastern.

“You don’t want to miss any reps or any time out there,” Wright said. “It’s a time to get better and we’ve got a preseason game next week and practice tomorrow (against) Atlanta — a good, competitive practice. I’m looking forward to going against any DB possible to get different looks to see what I’ll be getting in the regular season, so I’m just ready to go out and compete and get better.”

MARKS BENEFITTING FROM FULL OFFSEASON: Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said recently that being healthy this offseason is helping continue momentum from the way he finished 2011.

Marks missed the first two games of the 2011 preseason while he was recovering from shoulder surgery and played as a reserve the first six games. Marks, a second-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, started nine of the final 10 games.

“I’ve really just been trying to capitalize on the way that I finished last year,” Marks said. “I feel like I came in and played nose (tackle) and had a pretty good year. This year I’m just capitalizing on that.”

Marks is one of 16 defensive linemen currently at Titans training camp and has been receiving most of the first-team reps.

“It’s been real good. We’ve got good looking new guys, brought some great rookies in, especially the second-year guys that started and played a lot last year,” Marks said. “We’ve had a lot of great competition. (Assistant coach Keith) Millard brought in a lot of great techniques to teach us how he thinks the pass rush is supposed to be, and we’re picking up on it. We’re doing real good in pass-rush situations and Coach (Tracy) Rocker’s got us understanding the run game pretty solid, so I think we’ve been doing good.”

VELASCO HELPED BY TUTELAGE: Injuries are never wished for in football, but when they occur, the team has to keep rolling. Such is the case at center where Fernando Velasco has taken most of the first-team reps in place of nine-year veteran Eugene Amano, whose season ended with a torn triceps injury suffered during Thursday night’s practice.

Velasco, an undrafted rookie in 2008 who spent all of that season on the practice squad, has spent the past three seasons mostly in a reserve role as the swing man of the interior offensive line and on special teams. Prior to Amano’s injury, Velasco had taken a considerable amount of reps at right guard with Leroy Harris. Velasco said talks with Amano and Harris, as well as preparing as if he were the starter, have been beneficial.

“It was challenging three years ago when I first stepped into the swing role,” Velasco said. “I did a lot of talking with Eugene and Leroy because earlier in their careers, they were the same guy. I just tried to focus on center because the center is going to have to make all the calls, and to step in at guard, it wouldn’t be too hard of an adjustment as long as I know what everybody’s doing.”

Velasco said the next part of playing center is getting used to playing alongside seven-time Pro Bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson, who signed with the Titans this offseason.

“It’s about getting comfortable, especially playing beside Hutch,” Velasco said. “Since Hutch has been here, I’ve been playing right guard, so the first day I played center was last week when Eugene went down. That’s my first time, getting a chance to play beside Hutch.”

Velasco said he’s also received help from the depth of experiences that Titans offensive line coach Bruce Matthews has shared. Matthews played all five positions on the offensive line at some point during his 19-year Hall of Fame career with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.

“He’s so knowledgeable with the offensive line,” Velasco said. “He’s just as knowledgeable at center as he is at left tackle. He helps me out a lot, just giving me tips and pointers of what to look for and calls to make.”

ROAD TRIP AWAITS: The Titans will load up buses Monday morning to travel approximately 160 miles from Nashville to the joint practice with the Falcons and drive back Monday night.

It will be the first time in a long time for many players and coaches to use a bus instead of a plane for the major travel method of a road trip.

“That will be like a high school game, but we’re going about two hours, so it won’t be that bad — put some headphones on and get in the groove,” Marks said.

Munchak said the last time he did so was during his playing days when the Oilers held training camp in San Antonio and met the Dallas Cowboys in Austin, Texas.

Nine-year veteran Jordan Babineaux, who played collegiately at Southern Arkansas, recalled a bus trip during his senior season of more than 700 miles from Magnolia, Ark., to Valdosta, Ga.

“It’s all we had,” Babineaux said with a laugh. “Don’t make me re-live it.”

Babineaux said Monday’s trip will be worth it.

“I think it will be a great test for us,” Babineaux said. “I think the guys are excited to compete against someone other than ourselves, and we’ll have a chance to kind of put together the things that we run and start playing some good football and start getting into that competitive spirit against another team.”

NOTES: Derrick Morgan did not practice Sunday. “He was a little sore, so we thought we’d cut back today and see how he is tomorrow,” Munchak said. Morgan is expected to be available Monday. … David Stewart also did not practice Sunday because of soreness from Saturday’s practice at LP Field. … Dave Ball was excused for a personal reason.

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