NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans know only too well the importance of starting the season on a winning note.
The Titans remember how their 1-4 start a year ago put them into a hole they never dug out from en route to a 6-10 record. The challenge is a schedule that has Tennessee opening on the road Sunday at Pittsburgh followed by a trip to Houston. They finally play at home Sept. 22 against San Diego.
"This is a very big game," Verner said. "I almost want to say it's a must-win for the first game of the season. I think it's a must-win for us to take that step to try to compete and try to be contenders through the end of the year."
The Titans believe the difference will be an infusion of experience and talent with 20 new players, 13 of those free agents. They also know what it might mean for coach Mike Munchak in his third season if they don't win games early.
"Our backs are against the wall," safety
The new players include veterans like safety
"They've definitely been great helping me out so I know they've been beneficial to everybody on the team," Verner said.
The Titans have lost both season openers under Munchak, and he thinks he has a different team now.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin certainly has seen enough of Pollard from the safety's time in Baltimore to know what the veteran is bringing to Tennessee.
"He plays with great passion," Tomlin said on a conference call. "I think it is something that teams are capable of feeding off of. I think he is an energy-bringer as opposed to an energy-drainer. That is a recipe for good defense. We have a lot of respect for him."
Pollard has been trying to make sure his new teammates understand what they face Sunday in Pittsburgh. A physical game, hostile crowd and the need to build to just the right moment at kickoff. He said now it's time for the Titans to show their fans and themselves that they can play good football.
"Nashville, the state of Tennessee has been yearning for a team to win, and I think this year is the time," Pollard said.