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Emotions Run High as Offense Battles Back

Posted Aug 12, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After Monday’s practice, there wasn’t one player on the offensive side of the ball that felt good about the unit’s performance.

Subdued would be much too strong a word to describe the mood in the Titans locker room, but frustration was evident after the defense dominated a day that included too many interceptions, fumbled snaps and dropped passes by the offense.

Tuesday was a different story.

“They [the offense] definitely responded from yesterday. We set the tone yesterday, made a lot of plays and essentially won the practice,” said safety George Wilson. “Today we expected them to come out and be more physical, a little more aggressive and they were.”

Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his offensive players explained yesterday how the group responded on Tuesday would be a defining moment of camp.

Just 24 hours earlier, the ordinary felt straining, but Titans playmakers made the spectacular seem pedestrian on Tuesday.

“That was good. Different guys made different plays and sometimes that’s what it takes to get you going,” said Whisenhunt. “I’ve seen it happen a lot of times. The attitude today was good. Guys were focused and there weren’t the breakdowns we had yesterday and obviously they had more success.”

Quarterbacks Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst showered deep balls over defensive backs and into awaiting arms of their receivers. From Justin Hunter gliding past Jason McCourty, to Derek Hagan leaving dust behind him on the left sideline, big plays were aplenty.

“I think that’s part of camp,” said Locker. “You’re going against each other daily and at some point one side gets the better of the other. It’s all about how you bounce back. I thought we did a great job of competing today and having a really good practice.”

Kendall Wright surely had the catch of the day, but the bigger debate would be deciding which highlight-reel reception would claim the award. It could have been a back shoulder throw from Charlie Whitehurst down the right sideline that Wright was able to adjust to – holding off the corner draped over him. One could also choose a one-handed catch on a fade route in the end zone that Wright held onto while falling to the ground.

The red zone portion of team drills is when things really heated up from an emotional stand point. The offense had no intention of letting up after Monday’s meltdown, and the defense grew tired of giving ground.

The offensive efficiency continued to begin the drill, with Jake Locker finding tight end Delanie Walker and receiver Nate Washington (twice) for touchdowns. From play-action to roll-outs, the offense had found its groove.

As Whisenhunt noted in his post-practice presser, the red zone is where things get tight. It’s not just yards or incompletions, but touchdowns and goal line stands. All that culminated in a scuffle between tight end Chase Coffman and linebacker David Gilbert – a tipping point that hadn’t been seen in recent practices.

“Even though we’re family, we’re out there fighting for jobs and trying to improve our skillsets,” said Wilson. “There’s going to be days when it gets testy, but we always do a good job of keeping a team-first mentality. Coach does a good job of getting us refocused and back on task after everything breaks up.”

Whisenhunt saw nothing wrong with the scrap.

“I think we’ve gotten a lot of good work done,” said Whisenhunt. “You’re going to have days like this. It’s an emotional game. We had a good battle going in the red zone. That’s an important area. After yesterday when the offense was shut out it was nice to see them respond today the way they did.”

No one in the Titans locker room would argue fighting is a good thing, but everyone kept things in perspective, knowing occasional battles can ramp up the intensity of practice.

“You love to have that competition. You’ve got two sides pushing each other and then we scuffle,” said running back Leon Washington. “We love each other, we bang on the football field but once we get in the locker room we’re a group.”

Players made it clear that none of the animosity breaches the locker room door. It’s left on the field as its purpose has already been served – being the preparation for the dog fight that each Sunday brings in the NFL.

“It was good to see that feistiness and that fight because at the end of the day we have to go to battle against another team,” said Wilson. “We have to depend on the man next to us and you want to know that the man next to you has your back.”

Fellow safety Bernard Pollard agreed with the value of Tuesday’s tussle.

“To see everyone backing each other up, that’s the growth that’s here,” Pollard said proudly. “That didn’t happen last year. We have to take pride in what we do.”

After the dust settled, the defense left the red zone drills with the last laugh, when cornerback Marc Anthony intercepted Zach Mettenberger in the back of the end zone – a play that resulted in every defensive player rushing the field to congratulate their teammate.

Today felt like a day where the Titans took a big step forward in their preparation for the team’s second preseason contest Friday against the Saints.

“It has to be a controlled anger on Sundays. We have to fight for each other and fight for this city to bring home W’s,” said Pollard. “For all of us, it was just a good day today.”

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