NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It was a couple of years ago that Titans tight end Delanie Walker drew some chuckles when he revealed his policy on getting to know rookies.
In so many words, Walker explained that – with a few exceptions – he chooses not to chat with the youngsters until they've earned a roster spot.
But another one of the Titans' veteran leaders said this week he takes a different approach with the rooks.
Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, a four-year team captain and three-time Pro Bowler, said he dives in right away with the group – including the latest crop of four rookies selected by the Titans last weekend.
“It's a little different for me,” Casey said Thursday during a Titans caravan stop at Nashville's Purpose Preparatory Academy Charter School.
“I try to get in their heads a little bit, see what their thoughts are, try to get them going right away. At the end of the day … you are going to rely on them.”
Casey's logic makes perfect sense, given how much NFL teams – even more so than in past years – depend on rookies.
Where would the Titans have been last season, for instance, without the contributions of rookie starting cornerback Adoree Jackson, the 34 catches hauled in by rookie wide receiver Corey Davis or the coverage provided by rookie linebacker Jayon Brown?
Or the previous year, for that matter, when rookie right tackle Jack Conklin stepped in as the team's starting right tackle and produced an All-Pro season?
“I feel like you want them to have a head start,” Casey said of rookies. “You want to get them going. My mindset is always 'Get them ready, get them prepared,' and that way they're gonna' push you into getting better.”
The Titans produced 43 sacks last season, which was tied for fifth-best in the league. But that's not to say there's no room for improvement. Tennessee's sack total was bolstered by a pair of eight-sack games, one against Indianapolis one against Arizona.
All sacks count, of course, but the guess is the Titans will seek a more consistent pass rush this season than the one that totaled 13 sacks through the first half of 2017.
That's one of the reasons the Titans traded up to nab Evans and Landry, who combined for 39 sacks over the past two seasons.
“I don't know anything about them, but the coaches brought them in, so they have to be good choices,” Casey said. “I'm looking forward to them coming in, and when they get in here, we're going to put them to work.”
Imagine the impact the two newcomers might have on a player like Casey, who's piled up at least five sacks in each of the last five seasons. Should opposing offensive lines find themselves increasingly occupied by blitzing linebackers, it could lessen the attention Casey receives – freeing him up for even more pressure.
“The group of (rookies) that come in always feed off our older guys, our veterans,” Casey said. “And we work.”
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was asked last week – following the team's selection of Evans – whether Evans would be coming into an ideal situation, since he could be mentored by fellow linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
But perhaps not surprisingly, Vrabel saved his highest praise for Casey, encouraging all Titans rookies to watch and learn from his example.
“If I came in (as a rookie), I’d be real close to Jurrell Casey,” Vrabel said. “I wouldn't be too far from him. He's a great pro. He practices, he competes, he hustles.
“I wouldn’t be too far from Jurrell Casey if I was a young, defensive player on the Titans.”
Step right up, gentlemen. Casey doesn't bite.
As a matter of fact, he likes rookies.
-- Reach John Glennon at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.