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Titans Set to Open 2013 Training Camp

Posted Jul 23, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans are scheduled to begin training camp this week at Saint Thomas Sports Park in Nashville.  Rookies and veterans report to camp on Wednesday, July 24, and will take the field for the first time on Thursday, July 25.
       
Fans of the Titans can get their first glimpse of the 2013 squad on Friday, July 26, the first of 12 total training camp practices that will be free for the public to attend.  Training camp is the only time of the year that practices are open to the general public.

On Sunday, July 28, fans are invited to the annual Academy Sports Outdoors Night at Titans Training Camp.  Registration is open at Nashville area Academy Sports Outdoors locations to win VIP access for that evening, and at the practice, there will be special giveaways.

Training camp will operate similarly to previous years.  Free parking is available directly across the street from Saint Thomas Sports Park (460 Great Circle Road) at the CVS/Caremark corporate offices.  A tent will be on site next to the practice field selling a wide selection of Titans apparel and merchandise, and cold non-alcoholic beverages will also be available to purchase.  Fans can watch practice from the perimeter of the three outdoor practice fields, but spectators should be prepared to stand in typical Middle Tennessee summer heat for the duration of their visit, as shade and seating are very limited.

For an up-to-date camp schedule, fans can call the team’s training camp hotline at (615) 565-4190, or they can go to the team’s official website, TitansOnline.com/TrainingCamp

Additionally, fans can follow the Titans through camp on the club’s social media platforms, including Facebook (facebook.com/titans), Twitter (@tennesseetitans), Google (plus.google.com/ Titans) and Instagram (instagram.com/tennesseetitans).  Users can also use the hashtag #TitansCamp.

PREPARATIONS BEGIN IN EARNEST

Titans players, who report to camp on Wednesday, July 24, have been off since their final minicamp practice on June 19.  That day marked the end a productive and challenging nine-week offseason training program, during which new playbooks were installed and two dozen new players were welcomed to the club.

The offseason commitment figures to pay dividends when the squad’s readiness is put to the test only two weeks into camp.  On Thursday, Aug. 8, Tennessee plays its first of four preseason games, hosting the Washington Redskins on Aug. 8.  Furthermore, the Titans have a mere 45 days from the outset of camp until their regular season schedule begins Sept. 8 in Pittsburgh versus the Steelers.

MUNCHAK’S STAFF TAKES FORM

Titans head coach Mike Munchak, in his 32nd season as a player or coach with the franchise, enters his third training camp at the helm.  His total of 15 wins from 2011-12 was the third highest number in team history in a head coach’s first two full seasons.

Last year, the Titans fielded their youngest opening-day roster in seven years and then sent 16 players to injured reserve¬—their highest number in more than 20 years—en route to a 6-10 record and third-place finish in the AFC South. 

Not long after the season ended, Munchak began reshaping his staff.  Dowell Loggains was permanently named offensive coordinator, a post he assumed with five games remaining in the 2012 campaign.  While Jerry Gray was retained as defensive coordinator for a third season, the team brought in another experienced hand, Gregg Williams, to serve as senior assistant/defense.  Williams arrives with 22 years of experience as a head coach and assistant coach in the NFL, including four years as Titans defensive coordinator (1997–2000) and a combined nine years working with Gray.

The 19-member coaching staff has five total new additions: Williams, running backs coach Sylvester Croom, tight ends coach George Henshaw, wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, and assistant special teams coach Steve Hoffman.  In addition to Loggains, four other coaches will serve in a different capacity than they did with the Titans in 2012: special teams coach Nate Kaczor, linebackers coach Chet Parlavecchio, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and offensive line/tight ends assistant Arthur Smith.
 
Munchak, a Hall of Fame guard who originally joined the team as a first-round draft choice from Penn State in 1982, was promoted from offensive line coach to his current post in February 2011.  He is the 16th head coach in franchise history and the first who was a former player for the team. 
 
NEW-LOOK ROSTER

The coaching staff is not the only area of the team that will have a new look in 2013.  During the offseason, general manager Ruston Webster oversaw the reconstruction of the roster, adding key pieces through free agency and the draft.

In late February, the Titans signed former Buffalo Bills safety George Wilson.   In mid-March, Webster moved quickly once the unrestricted free agent signing period was underway, inking guard Andy Levitre (Buffalo), running back Shonn Greene (New York Jets), tight end Delanie Walker (San Francisco 49ers), linebacker Moise Fokou (Indianapolis Colts) and defensive tackle Sammie Hill (Detroit Lions) within 24 hours.  By the time Organized Team Activities began in late May, a total of 16 free agents were in the fold.  The group also included notables such as center/guard Rob Turner (St. Louis Rams), safety Bernard Pollard (Baltimore Ravens), defensive end Ropati Pitoitua (Kansas City Chiefs), quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Bills), wide receiver Kevin Walter (Houston Texans) and defensive tackle Antonio Johnson (Indianapolis Colts). 

From April 25-27, countess hours of work and the year-long efforts of Webster’s personnel staff culminated with the selection of eight new Titans in the 2013 NFL Draft.  With the 10th overall pick, the Titans chose the University of Alabama’s Chance Warmack, an imposing 6-foot-2-inch, 323-pound guard in the physical, workmanlike mold of Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews.  After the second-round selection of University of Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter, five of the final six draft picks were used on defenders, including Connecticut cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden in the third round.

Webster is in his second year as executive vice president/general manager after serving two seasons as vice president of player personnel.   He enters his 26th NFL season, which also includes 18 years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and four years with the Seattle Seahawks.

He hopes the 2013 draft class finds success similar to Kendall Wright and Zach Brown, the club’s top picks from 2012.  In his rookie season, Wright led the team with 64 receptions, which not only tied for the NFL rookie lead but also ranked second in franchise history for a rookie.  Brown, a second-rounder, started 13 games in his first professional season and tied for third place on the team in tackles (93).  Also, Brown was the only NFL rookie in 2012 to finish among the league’s top five rookies in both interceptions (3, tied for fourth) and sacks (5.5, tied for fifth). 

LOCKER TAKES CHARGE

Another former first-round pick, Jake Locker, enters training camp for the first time as the unquestioned starter at quarterback and the on-field leader of the Titans offense.  The third-year pro was a backup behind Matt Hasselbeck as a rookie in 2011, and in 2012, the two battled for the starter’s role through the offseason and training camp.  With two preseason games remaining, Munchak announced that Locker would get the nod.

Locker had little time on the job before having to battle through a significant shoulder injury.  In the season opener against the Patriots, making a tackle on an apparent fumble return (the play was later ruled an incomplete pass), he dislocated his left (non-throwing) shoulder.  He was prevented from re-entering the game, the first of seven contests he missed either partially or altogether due to the shoulder. 

Locker finished the season with 177 completions on 314 attempts (56.4 percent) for 2,176 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.  He added 291 yards and a score on 41 rushing attempts. 

Immediately after the season, he underwent surgery to repair his injured shoulder.  After months of rehabilitation, he participated fully in the offseason program and did not miss a snap at OTAs or minicamp due to the injury. 

THE RETURNING CAST MEMBERS

While the Titans did experience significant roster turnover during the spring, they are not without a young and vital returning nucleus. 

On offense, Chris Johnson leads the running backs group once again.  Now in his sixth NFL season, Johnson’s 6,888 rushing yards from 2008–2012 ranked second in the league and ranked sixth in NFL history for a player’s initial five campaigns.  Johnson ranks third in franchise history in rushing yards, and no other player in NFL history has more than half of his six career touchdown runs of 80-plus yards.
 
The wide receivers corps includes last year’s top three pass catchers: Wright, Kenny Britt and Nate Washington.  Britt, who averages 16.1 yards per reception in his career, is nearly two years removed from an ACL injury and enjoyed his healthiest and most productive offseason since his rookie year.  Washington arguably has been one of the team’s most consistent performers since signing with the team in 2009.  In that span, he has never missed a game, has a team-high 23 touchdown receptions, and has caught at least one pass in every contest.

Likewise, the defense has no shortage of players with experience in a Titans uniform who have yet to pass their primes.

Brown, middle linebacker Colin McCarthy and strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers make a formidable young trio.  Combined, they have 68 career games, 57 starts and 412 tackles in only five cumulative seasons.

The Titans secondary was led in 2012 by cornerback Jason McCourty, elected as a team captain for the first time, and safety Michael Griffin, a former first-round pick who has two career Pro Bowls under his belt.  In their fourth and sixth seasons, respectively, McCourty and Griffin each started all 16 games and tied for the team lead with four interceptions.  Both are back in 2013, as is cornerback Alterraun Verner, another 16-game starter who last year led the squad with seven tackles for loss and ranked second with 10 passes defensed. 

Three of the team’s four regular starters from the defensive line return from a year ago: defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and defensive ends Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley.  Morgan (6.5) and Wimbley (6.0) contributed 12.5 of the squad’s 39 sacks, a total that tied for ninth in the league.  Morgan, a first-round pick in 2010, also led the defense with 19 quarterback pressures.  Casey has led the defensive line in tackles in each of his first two NFL seasons, including an 80-tackle effort in 2012.

The Titans also boast one of the league’s top specialist batteries.  Rob Bironas is the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history (85.6 percent) and the second all-time leading scorer in Oilers/Titans annals.  Brett Kern possibly had the best punting season the franchise has ever seen in 2012, setting records in both gross average (47.6 yards) and net average (40.4). 
       
Meanwhile, the returner’s job could be one of training camp’s top competitions, as Marc Mariani, a Pro Bowl selection in 2010, and Darius Reynaud vie for the top spot.  When Mariani went down with a season-ending leg injury during the 2012 preseason, Reynaud took the reins and  produced a 13.2-yard punt return average, the third-highest average in the NFL.  His combined punt and kickoff return yardage total of 1,650 yards led the NFL and qualified as the third-highest total in team history.
       
The Titans head to training camp with the NFL-maximum of 90 players on the roster.  They will have to pare the squad twice before the regular season, going to 75 players on Aug. 27 and to 53 players on Aug. 31, after which time they can also form an eight-man practice squad.

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