NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt addressed reporters Friday as players reported to Saint Thomas Sports Park, a prelude to the start of the team’s 2014 training camp.
The team practices for the first time Saturday morning at 9:20 a.m., the first of three consecutive training camp practices open to fans.
“We’re excited to get started,” Whisenhunt said. “Now the energy is back and we’re ready to go.”
The biggest part of Friday’s activities was the conditioning test -- two 300-yard shuttles that players had to complete in an allotted time period. Whisenhunt reported that everyone passed and now the focus shifts to football with the first practice less than 24 hours away.
“I was pleased with the test,” he said. “Everybody did what they were supposed to do. By the time you get to about 250 yards on that second one that piano drops on your back and makes it tough, but our guys did a nice job.”
The coming month will be the first time that Whisenhunt gets to see his team in pads. He mentioned that in order to learn about his players, training camp requires a high degree of toughness.
“There’s no question it has to be tough,” Whisenhunt stated. “I think one of the things from coach [Bill] Cowher was that he had a great feel for the team. He knew when to push and when to back off. We’re going to push these guys and one of the reasons why I’m so excited about the team is that they want to be pushed.”
Competition is the central theme of training camp across all 32 NFL teams. Every team starts with a 90-man training camp roster, and must be trimmed down to 53 on Aug. 31 when final cuts are made.
The degree of competition varies throughout the league depending on the depth of the roster. Whisenhunt hopes his decisions will be as tough as possible as the end of August rolls around.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be hard to get to 53. That to me is a sign of a team that has a chance of winning,” he said. “When I first went into Arizona it wasn’t as hard to get to 53 as it was in 2009 after we’d gone to the Super Bowl.”
The balance of evaluating a player’s performance in both practices and games is one of the most difficult aspects of making cuts.
Players aren’t only competing for a spot on the roster, but also a place in the starting lineup. Cornerback, linebacker and kicker are a few notable position battles to watch in the coming weeks. Whisenhunt gave no timetable as to how soon -- or late -- those decisions would be made.
“I’m comfortable with competition. The guys competing for the spots are good players, so however it shakes out is going to work for us,” he said. “Competition brings out the best in guys. Whoever doesn’t get the spot is going to be ready to play if they have to because they’re prepared after fighting for the starting spot. I’m not concerned about that.”
Whisenhunt said the health of the team is in good shape heading into Saturday’s practice. That includes running back
“He will practice,” Whisenhunt said of his veteran running back. “We’re going to be careful with his weights because even though his knee is good and there’s no swelling, we don’t want to put him in a situation where we get a nagging injury going forward. We’ll space out his reps to make sure we can get him in shape.”
“The designation for Levitre is the worst excuse for getting out of the running test I’ve ever seen,” Whisenhunt joked before giving his official designation. “No, he’s going to be on the NFI (Non-Football Injury) list.”
The NFI list gives the Titans protection if complications occur during Levitre’s recovery, but will keep him on the 90-man roster until he returns to camp.
The excitement is palpable at Saint Thomas Sports Park with the offseason officially over. The process has begun for Whisenhunt and his coaching staff to construct their team and give it the personality they desire. That identity is what Whisenhunt hopes will set the tone for a successful 2014 campaign.
“[I want to be] a tough, smart football team that can win games at the end or in tight situations when you need to,” he said to end his press conference.
Stay tuned to Titans Online throughout training camp for up-to-date news from Saint Thomas Sports Park.