As Ken Whisenhunt begins his first training camp as head coach of the Tennessee Titans, he is busy trying to give the team a much-needed identity.
At first glance at the Titans roster, there aren't a lot of household names. Even during the mediocre stretch of the past five years with no postseason, the Titans had a few players who were recognizable names - Chris Johnson, Vince Young, Kenny Britt.
Alas, all of them are gone without a lot of success team-wise to show for their time in Tennessee (zero playoff wins).
Now, the Titans are getting a makeover courtesy of Whisenhunt and general manager Ruston Webster. And while there are solid players and lots of prospects, the household names are few and far between.
"When you classify a player as a star, is that stat-driven? Is that perception by somebody outside? I think if you watch a Tennessee Titans football game and you watch Jurrell Casey or you watch Kendall Wright, you have a tremendous amount of respect for the way those guys play," Whisenhunt said. "I'm just using those two guys as an example. Derrick Morgan could, obviously, fit into that, as could (Michael) Griffin and (Bernard) Pollard, and I could continue to name them. Now, whether they're considered stars in fantasy stats, or whether they're considered stars by all of these experts that are out there, I don't know. I consider them to be good football players."
But that's OK in Whisenhunt's eyes, as he is more concerned about molding the Titans into a contender.
"The only thing I'm worried about is getting our guys prepared. I think they worked hard in the OTAs and in mini camps that we had. I was very pleased with that," Whisenhunt said. "I felt like the chemistry with this group of men was something that was building on the positive side, but there's so much yet that we have to determine. We have to go through adversity, that's part of forging a team. I like the guys, I respect the amount of work that they put in, and if we can have a good camp, we're certainly excited about the season."
While the the culture change is still a work in progress, Whisenhunt said he definitely wants a "tough" team as part of the identity.
The other thing is that Whisenhunt expects the Titans not to rebuild but to build up quickly into a contender.
"Everybody expects you to win. Understand this, we want to win. This is not about rebuilding a team or being patient. This is about winning. Our goal is to get a home playoff game, because that's an important piece of it for our fans. I hope they understand the process of this, but by no means do we feel like it's a process that we're asking for patience," he said.
Players reported: July 25
First practice: July 26.
Joint practice at Falcons: Aug. 4
--Quarterback Jake Locker said that now that he is entering his fourth season with the Titans that he believes he has earned enough respect in the locker room to be a more vocal leader when necessary. Not that Locker is a rah-rah guy or a clubhouse lawyer by any means, but as the quarterback of an NFL team, he recognizes now that there is more and just stepping under center in playing the position.
"I think there's a reason the quarterback is asked to be a leader. That's a role I'm excited about the opportunity to embrace," Locker said. "It hasn't changed as far as the first time I talked to you guys as far as going out and letting my actions speak, but I do feel at this point, coming into my fourth year, I've earned the respect of the guys in that locker room and I feel like they'll listen when I say things and get the opportunity to pick and choose times to speak up a little more now and be a little more vocal than I have been in the past."
--Wide receiver Nate Washington is in his 10th NFL season and sixth with the Titans. In those first five years in Tennessee, he has not been to the postseason. It was a common theme echoed by a lot of players, including Washington, who is familiar with Coach Ken Whisenhunt from their days together with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It's a huge difference. His mentality toward the game and the way treats us in this locker room. I think Coach Whisenhunt has been around enough that he understands that you have to let grown men be grown men and he allows us as players to coach ourselves in that locker room," Washington said. "He lets us patrol ourselves and get expections out of ourselves. Coach Whisenhunt understands a lot about this game, and he has kind of put us in a position to expect greatness without telling us to expect greatness."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RB Shonn Greene, who missed all of OTA and mini-camp work due to having a second surgery on his troublesome knee, will start training camp on the active roster. Greene is ready to begin practicing and will do so, though the Titans will be careful not to overwork him early in camp.
--G Andy Levitre will start camp on the non-football injury list due to having his appendix taken out on Thursday. Levitre will likely miss about two weeks with the injury.
--T Taylor Lewan agreed to his rookie contract on Wednesday, the last first-round pick to do so. With Andy Levitre out at the start of camp, Lewan could see some time at left guard as well as working at tackle.
--G/C Chris Spencer likely will see first-team time with Andy Levitre out of action. Spencer was re-signed in the off-season to be the top backup on the interior of the line.
--G Kevin Danser was signed to help with depth on the interior of the line.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--T Mike Otto (not tendered as UFA).
--C Rob Turner (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--T Taylor Lewan (1/11); 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Bishop Sankey (2/54): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--NT DaQuan Jones (4/112): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Marqueston Huff (4/122): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Avery Williamson (5/151): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Zach Mettenberger (6/178): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Jackie Battle: Potential UFA; $855,000/1 yr.
--DT Antonio Johnson: UFA; terms unknown.
--WR/KR Marc Mariani: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Ropati Pitoitua: Potential UFA; $9.6M/3 yrs, $2.175M SB.
--S Bernard Pollard: Potential UFA; $6.3M/2 yrs, $850,000 SB.
--C/G Chris Spencer: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB Leon Washington: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--TE Dorin Dickerson: Not tendered as RFA by Lions; terms unknown.
--WR Dexter McCluster: UFA Chiefs; $12M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--OT Michael Oher: UFA Ravens; $20M/4 yrs, $4M SB/$9.35M guaranteed.
--LB Shaun Phillips: UFA Broncos; $6M/2 yrs.
--WR Brian Robiskie: FA; terms unknown.
--QB Charlie Whitehurst: UFA Chargers; $4.25M/2 yrs, $1M SB/$2M guaranteed.
--DE Al Woods: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.
--LB Wesley Woodyard: UFA Broncos; $16M/4 yrs.
--K Rob Bironas (released).
--WR Kenny Britt: UFA Rams; $1.4M/1 yr, $550,000 guaranteed.
--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (released).
--RB Chris Johnson (released).
--FB Quinn Johnson (released).
--C Kevin Matthews: Not tendered as RFA/Panthers; terms unknown.
--QB Rusty Smith: UFA Giants; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T David Stewart (failed physical).
--CB Alterraun Verner: UFA Buccaneers; $26.5M/4 yrs, $14M guaranteed.
--WR Damian Williams: UFA Dolphins; $800,000/1 yr.
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