Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports this week that Titans running back LenDale White weighed in at over 260 pounds earlier this month while working out in the team's offseason program. It's believed to be the heaviest White has been since entering the NFL last season, and underscores the physical conditioning concerns many believe contributed to the former USC back slipping to the second round of the 2006 NFL draft. Clearly it's concerning news for Tennessee, which has seen its backfield options dwindle with Travis Henry signing with the Denver Broncos, and Chris Brown still floating around in free agency.
Now the Titans are looking at candidates to fill out their backfield and push White, who apparently left the team in shape after last season but gained around 30 pounds before returning for the offseason program. It was only one year ago that talent evaluators were opining that White's weight would likely be a constant battle in his career, after he showed up to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis at 238 pounds, and then USC's pro day at 244. This after White admitted that he played in the national championship game against Texas at over 250 pounds.
Once with the Titans, he was never able to get himself into the backfield rotation, falling behind Henry and rushing for 244 yards in 13 games. Even now, with the backfield seemingly his for the taking, coach Jeff Fisher said White has not been given the starting nod next season. Fisher added that Tennessee has maintained "a lot of interest" in Brown, who has visited with the Buffalo Bills and drawn some interest from a handful of other teams.
"[LenDale] is no different than any other young player," said Fisher, who would not expound on White's reported heavy weigh-in. "He needs the competition. You don't hand the job to him. The job has not been handed to him. Hopefully we'll have somebody in there to compete with him."
With the free agent class dwindling, Brown looks like the best option. Clearly, he's the only one who offers the Titans certainty in what they are getting for their money. Not only is he familiar with the team and the offense, he's still young enough (he turns 26 in April) to see a rebound in production, a la Henry in 2006.
It was only three seasons ago that Brown ran for 1,067 yards in 11 games and looked like the long-term centerpiece in Tennessee's backfield. But he was slowed by some nagging injuries and then fell out of favor with former Titans general manager Floyd Reese, and rarely saw the field in 2006. Now in full health, Brown should have the youth and skill set that would make him an ideal fit for the two-back rotations that many clubs are trending toward.
But perhaps more important for Tennessee, he's a player who could potentially step in and start challenging White right now – while there's still time to make progress in the offseason program. Fisher said he laid out his expectations to White at the end of last season, including an ideal weight for the running back.
"We've encouraged him to take advantage of [the offseason program] and he has," Fisher said. "He's been there every day thus far. He's stayed in Nashville [Tenn.]. He's a very competitive, tough, talented young running back. I think he's got a chance to be very good."
The key word in that sentence should be "chance." As another Titans' team official said of White this week, "At some point, the light is going to have to go on."