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Notebook: Titans Plotting Active Roster

Posted Sep 6, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans coaching staff and personnel department made decisions last weekend on who was in and who was out as the roster was reduced from 75 to 53 players.

This weekend, however, Titans coach Mike Munchak must decide who’s up and who’s down. NFL teams are allowed 46 active players from the 53-man roster, and the number one priority is making sure the team has enough depth at each position group. The desire to build the strongest special teams units possible is another key aspect.   

Some weeks, especially late during the 2012 season, it was fairly simple to identify the players who would not be active because of injuries early in the week.

The Titans have four players on the injury report this week: linebacker Zaviar Gooden (ankle) has been ruled out, fullback Quinn Johnson (quad) is doubtful, and linebacker Akeem Ayers (ankle) and tackle David Stewart (calf) are questionable for Tennessee’s season opener at Pittsburgh.

Munchak said the clear-cut status of Gooden for this game eased the decision about linebackers because it leaves five who will be active. He was also encouraged by the way Ayers progressed in his first week back on the practice field since suffering the ankle injury at Cincinnati on Aug. 17.

Akeem Ayers hasn't played since suffering an ankle injury Aug. 17 at Cincinnati but did return to the practice field this week. Titans coach Mike Munchak said the linebacker's status "got better each day."

“He got better each day. I think he pretty much did everything (Friday),” Munchak said. “He participated from start to finish, so I think that was good for him. Now, again, it’s just rehabbing it (Friday) and (Saturday). You know, adrenaline kicks in, too. That’s a big part of this thing. You get a huge boost on a Sunday when it’s game day, especially opening day. You’re hoping guys that are that close will feel a lot better than you think they will come Sunday.”

The status of Johnson, however, is the most challenging for Tennessee, which hosted a couple of fullbacks for workouts, and also has Collin Mooney on its practice squad. Replacing Johnson with another player, however, would require the removal of someone else from the roster, so the Titans are also weighing if they would be able to get through Sunday’s game without a true fullback.

“(Mooney is) someone we have confidence in if that’s what we need to do,” Munchak said. “That’s the one good thing about having someone here that knows what we’re doing. So, that’ll be one of our options, but we’ll just wait and see how this thing works out.”

The Titans have four tackles on the roster: Stewart, Michael Roos, Mike Otto and Byron Stingily, and usually have three active on Sundays. Munchak said earlier this week that Otto would likely get the start if Stewart can’t go, but he’s optimistic about Stewart’s chances.

“I think he’s going to be good,” Munchak said. “I think he felt better (Friday) like he was able to actually do all our other stuff, off the field stuff. He did all the walkthrough, which is a decent tempo. He looked pretty good, so we’re hoping he’ll be fine.”

Receiver is a spot where the Titans opted to keep six players on the 53-man roster, but Munchak said Tennessee may have just four active this week but could have five. He said special teams also plays into that decision.

“I think the debate’s more about what’s best for the team, possibly with the special teams angle,” Munchak said. “It’s not necessarily who’s the best player. It’ll be more about if we have to go five, why are we going five. Which receiver is nicked is the first thing and then what’s the status with the rest of the positions? We know that Mike P. (Michael Preston) can play a lot of special teams plays. That’s not necessarily something Justin (Hunter is) going to do. You weigh those things.”

HOMECOMING: Munchak, defensive end Derrick Morgan and cornerbacks Tommie Campbell and Blidi Wreh-Wilson played high school football in Pennsylvania. Campbell is from Aliquippa, Pa., about 30 minutes away from Pittsburgh, and Wreh-Wilson grew up in Edinboro, Pa., which is less than two hours away.

Game Rewind: Tennessee TitansWreh-Wilson said he’s heard from people in his hometown who plan on attending the game in Steelers attire and expects a “wild environment” but one that the Titans can manage.

“I didn’t go to a lot of games, but you turn on CBS, it was the first game that was on, so you saw a lot of Pittsburgh games, but that’s not a concern for us,” Wreh-Wilson said. “It’s just we know what we have to do and we’re going on a mission up there.”

Munchak’s family is organizing bus trips for about 100 fans who plan to travel from Scranton, Pa., in Titans gear.

“People love football in that part, so I know we’ll have 100 Titans fans that are coming to the game at least. I think it’s more about the road trip than it is (the game),” Munchak said. “The game’s important too, but I think they love to travel and it’s not far. They love going there and irritating the Pittsburgh fans, I guess, and wearing the Titans jerseys and having a good time.”

TEACHING MOMENTS: Many viewed Thursday night’s season opener between Baltimore and Denver as the long awaited return of the regular season, but the Titans saw it as another learning opportunity.

Wreh-Wilson said he was impressed by several big hits and paid special attention to Danny Trevathan’s premature celebration that erased an easy “pick six” when the Denver linebacker dropped the ball a yard before crossing the goal line during his return of an interception.

“He dropped the ball. I mean if I ever get the opportunity, being a rookie, at least I got to see that a couple of days before my first game,” Wreh-Wilson said. “I saw Peyton Manning, too, and what an NFL quarterback can do to a defense that’s not on top of its game. Going into this game we want to make sure we’re on top of everything.”

Munchak said coaches and players are always on the lookout for learning opportunities.

“I think the players, the coaches always take things on different phases of the game and learn from other teams’ mistakes,” Munchak said. “I think some plays you watch, but we’ll take things if we think it’s going to make a difference for teaching moments, whether it be special teams, offense, defense, head coach. You’re always looking for ways to do things better.”

CHARITY EVENT: Titans safety Michael Griffin used Thursday’s game as a backdrop to host a fundraiser at Hard Rock Café for his “Sacks 4 Kids” program that helps provide nutritious foods to area youth that have limited access to healthy meals. Click here to read more about the event, and click here to see photos.

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