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Notebook: Titans Developing Defensive Plan for Colts Minus Michael Griffin

Posted Nov 27, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans returned to the practice field Wednesday to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Colts, and part of the preparations include designing a game plan and divvying up duties for defenders in the absence of free safety Michael Griffin.

Griffin will be serving a one-game suspension that was announced Monday and upheld Tuesday despite an appeal of the initial decision in which Griffin submitted his case to the NFL. Titans coach Mike Munchak said the evidence Griffin submitted included photographs that showed Raiders TE Mychal Rivera didn’t have his chinstrap properly fastened and video of Griffin trying to aim low and slow himself before making contact with Rivera, who was falling forward. Rivera lost his helmet after the impact, and then his head struck the turf.

The league said the decision resulted from a repeat violation of safety rules, attributing four violations to Griffin since 2011, including one earlier this season against the Jets that didn’t draw a penalty but did result in a fine.

“(Griffin) hasn’t gotten the written final reply of exactly what they felt,” Munchak said. “I think it was a matter of the number of times that automatically triggers you to the suspension; it’s not necessarily the act. It’s more of the series of acts over a period of time. I think everyone is not real sure on the ruling of how they’re handling this. It’s so new. Player safety and some of these rules have changed and just been implemented the last couple years.

“For me, I think it was disappointing,” Munchak added. “You would think if someone got suspended it would be a very bad hit, no-brainer that he did something he shouldn’t have done. I think on that play he was trying to do a lot of things they were asking him to do. He was pulling off, he was going lower, he didn’t use his head.”

Munchak said the Titans are developing a plan that could rely significantly on veteran George Wilson working at safety with Bernard Pollard and possibly mixing in nickel back Coty Sensabaugh or rookie cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson.

“We’re going to have to make some changes, move some guys around for this game. That’s what we’re working on right now, the best way to do that, and see what if this happens or that happens, so you’re covering a lot of situations,” Munchak said. “It’s a one-week thing, but it’s tough for the defense. Griff’s handling it very well, very professionally, and I think the players will, too. I think we’re disappointed. This is how the league is, and you have to adjust. We will adjust.”

Wilson played one defensive snap and on special teams when the Titans hosted the Colts on Nov. 14, but said he’s comfortable with an increased workload.

“I think, overall, to be a good safety in this league, you’ve got to be interchangeable, to be able to play in the box and play deep,” Wilson said. “I have experience playing deep and down close to the line of scrimmage so I’m comfortable being able to protect my corners over the top.”

Cornerback Jason McCourty said he thinks the Titans will be able to accommodate the changes.

“As a team, you’ve got to be able to adjust so we’re definitely going to be missing his presence on the field but we have some viable options,” McCourty said. “George is a veteran. He’ll be ready to step in, and (rookie Daimion) Stafford is another young guy, so we’ll be ready to go but he’ll be missed out there.”

Alterraun Verner said the Titans made some adjustments Nov. 3 when Griffin missed the first game of his career because of a quadriceps injury. He said that experience doesn’t make doing it again easier but does let players “know we’re capable of still being able to perform” with Griffin out.

“It’s unfortunate,” Verner said. “He’s a great player, an integral part of our defense but we’ve got the guys that can step up and we’ve got some experience back there. We’re not going to adjust too much.”

PRO RETURNER: Return specialist/running back Leon Washington had his first day of practice as a Titan Wednesday, one day after signing with Tennessee. Washington is a two-time Pro Bowler who has battled injuries this season with New England, who recently waived him.

Washington passed a physical with the Titans, and Munchak said the eight-year veteran quickly demonstrated effectiveness.

“Just watching him today, his attitude, how he approaches his job, his confidence, you see why he was good at what he did for so many years,” Munchak said. “That’s exactly what we needed. The timing was great for us when he became available. We’re hoping he can come in and have a nice strong end to the season for us, help us with field position and things like that.”

Since training camp, the Titans have tried Marc Mariani (out for season with an injury), Darius Reynaud (waived Oct. 21), Damian Williams (injured Nov. 10, with Verner replacing him in that game) and Devon Wylie (waived Monday) in the return specialist role.

Although Washington hasn’t had many opportunities in games this season, he said he took Patriots practices seriously.

“I’ve kind of got the philosophy that I gain separation through preparation so even today in practice I’m trying to catch as many kicks as I can to get myself ready,” Washington said. “This time of year, no one is healthy, but I feel good.”

Washington said the process began with communication with the return teams.

“I’ve talked to some guys and let them know how serious I take special teams,” he said. “I don’t do special teams just to be in the game. We’re trying to win the game on special teams. That’s how I feel about it.”

MORE ROSTER MOVES: The Titans signed former Falcons safety Shann Schillinger, who has appeared in 36 games with Atlanta over the previous four seasons.

The Titans also on Wednesday signed Tyler Horn to their practice squad and waived Oscar Johnson from the practice squad. Horn was a member of Tennessee’s practice squad from October through the end of the season in 2012.

The new players join John Skelton (Nov. 18) and Micah Pellerin (Nov. 22) on the 53-man roster and Frank Kearse (Nov. 26) to the practice squad as recent additions made by the Titans.

INJURY UPDATES: Williams (hip) and Craig Stevens (concussion) did not practice, and Kendall Wright (ankle) was limited, “but did a lot,” Munchak said. The Titans won’t know more about Stevens until Friday, Munchak said. Click here for the full injury report.

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