NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The reception
Turner joined the Titans this March as a free agent after one season in St. Louis and five in New York with the Jets. He said his decision to come to Nashville was influenced by the opportunity to play for two coaches who made the Pro Football Hall of Fame as offensive linemen.
“Probably the most appealing thing was having Bruce as the offensive line coach and Coach Munchak as the head coach. You don’t get the opportunity to play for former players like that very often,” Turner said. “After playing for Coach (Jeff) Fisher and him having been a former player, (former players) have a different outlook on things. It was a pleasure playing for him, and that was one of the biggest draws to me.”
It also brings an opportunity for Turner to return to the city where he played his first snap in the NFL on Dec. 23, 2007. Turner came in after an injury and still remembers the day.
“I remember getting headslapped by Albert Haynesworth on my very first play. He didn’t get by me. I held the crap out of him,” Turner said with a laugh. “At the time, the Titans had (Haynesworth) and Vanden Bosch on the same side … I overset a little bit and (Haynesworth) headslapped the (fire) out of me. I had a hold on his inside pec, and that was the only thing that kept him from going scott-free.”
Turner also remembered Vanden Bosch tackling him twice on draw plays, even though he didn’t have the ball.
“He was trying to retrace and get the running back and he ended up wrapping me up by the legs and we laughed about it on Monday,” Turner said. “I’m sitting there thinking, ‘What the heck is he tackling me for?’ but the running back was right on my inside hip.”
Despite giving up what he estimated as 75 pounds to Haynesworth, Turner was able to contain the forceful defensive tackle to one solo tackle and three assists without drawing a penalty. Although it was a thrill at the time, Turner said the film is not as easy on his eyes in retrospect.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Turner said. “I would hate to watch the film right now because it wasn’t pretty but I got the job done, and I guess you could say I neutralized him and he didn’t wreck the game for us.”
The Jets had considerable depth on the offensive line during Turner’s five seasons. He backed up four-time Pro Bowler Nick Mangold at center. Turner also found himself behind nine-time Pro Bowler Alan Faneca in 2008-09, former first rounder Damien Woody 2008-10 and Brandon Moore, who has started 142 of 144 games with the Jets.
He viewed it as an opportunity to learn from each of those players, saying “I was fortunate and blessed enough to play behind some good guys in New York.”
Turner found the field by fitting multiple hats under one helmet.
“My first couple of years I was a utility guy. I played wherever they needed me to,” Turner said. “At one point, I think the only positions I haven’t lined up at on offense are quarterback and tailback. When I was in New York, they’d line me up as a wide out, and I’d come in motion and crack a guy or they’d motion me as a fullback out of the back field and I lined up as a wide out and ran a nine route.”
There were also snaps on goal-line defense.
|Rob Turner started all 16 games for St. Louis in 2012 and signed with the Titans as a free agent. Click here for a slideshow of Turner's NFL career.|
Turner missed all of the 2011 season after suffering a leg injury during a preseason game, but finally received the opportunity to start in 2012 when he went with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to St. Louis. Turner started nine games at center and seven at guard, playing every offensive snap for the Rams.
The Titans like the versatility that Turner brings to the interior of the offensive line, but Matthews has also noticed other characteristics. Matthews described him as “kind of a throwback tough guy,” words that gain even more significance since they were said by a 14-time Pro Bowler who played 296 games in 19 seasons.
“He can play both guard positions and snap the ball. He did very well (last season),” Matthews said. “Really I think his best asset is he plays with an edge, a big-time edge. He’s a guy that’s going to be down there around the pile, finishing guys, just that toughness that we really look for.
“When you get the group collectively, the five upfront, playing with that kind of tenacity,” Matthews continued, “it sends a message not only to the other team when they throw the tape on for the upcoming game, but to your teammates, knowing I’ve got five guys like that that are going to fight for me upfront with an attitude. They aren’t going to take crap off anyone. That’s the way, I think, that as an offensive lineman you really enjoy the game because you’re invested emotionally, obviously the physical part, everyone is doing that. We need to be on our game technique-wise, assignment-wise, but that passion part of the game. I think that’s the best thing he’s going to bring to this group.”
The addition of Turner is one of several moves the Titans made through free agency and the draft to bolster an offensive line that suffered multiple injuries and used six different starting lineups in 2012. Tennessee also signed highly sought guard
Matthews said he and Munchak will put the best five guys together on the line, regardless of where they were picked in the draft or years of experience. Matthews said the tenacity and approach Turner has taken during his career since signing as an undrafted free agent out of New Mexico will help.
“He’s taken the road less traveled. He’s had to fight and stick, and when he finally stuck, he tore his ankle up pretty good,” Matthews said. “He’s at the point now, especially after last year, ‘Hey man, I can play in this league,’ and that’s apparent from the tape. He’s looking to get a fit and get something long-term going. That’s what we like about him.”