Postcard from camp: Titans
SI.com has dispatched 10 writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. For the complete schedule of postcards, click here.
Setting the Scene
They were the Houston Oilers from 1960 until 1996 and then the Tennessee Oilers until 1998, but it's the 10th season of the team as the Titans. To commemorate the occasion they're bringing back the powder blue jerseys with an anniversary patch on the sleeve as opposed to the navy duds they've been sporting at home for the past nine years. It was also 10 years ago that the Titans opened camp at their Baptist Sports Park facility. It's located in an office park area of Nashville just five minutes north of downtown where signs warn of ducks crossing as they waddle their way across the winding road to the lake that borders three sides of the complex. Fans are herded along the perimeter of the three outdoor fields in a 12-foot width of space barricaded on either side by two chain link fences.
And, keeping with the anniversary theme, the most popular jersey worn by the crowd wasn't Vince Young's, but Jevon Kearse's, who's back with the Titans after a four-year stint with the Eagles. Ten years ago, Kearse was defensive rookie of the year with 14.5 sacks on the Tennessee team that went to the Super Bowl. The Titans face the Rams in their preseason opener Saturday and invited them to town early for some physical two-a-days on Wednesday and Thursday where the temperature hit 97 degrees the first morning. "When I moved down here from New England last year I thought I had moved to the equator during that first week of camp, " said Titans media relations man Jared Puffer. IVs were available to players and several partook in an effort to re-hydrate in the stifling weather.
While it cools to the mid-60s at night, only the first through third year players are required to stay at the Maxwell House Hotel nearby. The rest of the team heads home to their own beds -- everyone except 15-year veteran Kevin Mawae, who instead heads to his 36-foot RV that he parks at the complex. "I only live 30 minutes away but it's just easier to stay here after 9 p.m. meetings when you have to be back here by 7 a.m.," said Mawae, who admits that teammates and trainers have bunked with him on occasion. "I just head outside, turn the generators on, crank up the AC and go to sleep. It's the ultimate camp crash pad."
1. Vince Young looks like he's improved. Last season he was dealing with a bum quadricep and threw a league-low nine TDs. Enter offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who spent much of the offseason working on Young's footwork and mindset. It appears to have paid off. It was reported that Young was having a spotty camp before the Rams came, but Young antes up for competition and looked good both days. On Wednesday morning he completed 22 of 27 passes, airing out 40-yarders for Roydell Williams and shorter slants for Alge Crumpler. On Thursday afternoon he showed off his arm with a 60-yard TD to Paul Williams. He also underthrew a few balls and was once intercepted by safety Todd Johnson, but he impressed in the two-minute drill, completing a quick three in a row before going to the huddle. And if he melts down early on, the silver lining is that Kerry Collins has looked real good. Coach Jeff Fisher says Young has had his best camp yet out of his three with the Titans. He's dropped 10 pounds and still has a rocket arm from the pocket.
2. The run will be good again. They were fifth in the league last season behind Chris Brown and LenDale White. Brown is now with the Texans but the addition of lightning-fast rookie Chris Johnson in Heimerdinger's scheme should make for a stellar running game. The only cause for concern is the current shape of White. While he wouldn't admit his exact weight, he says it's above his listed 235 but below his Rose Bowl weight of 255. It's a questionable range but Fisher isn't concerned. "Hey, he's a big back," Fisher said. "I'm not as concerned about his weight, provided the endurance is there. He has separation speed that he didn't have last year so he's primed to have a very good season."
3. Jevon Kearse could get his Freak back. The fans love him in Tennessee and he wants redemption. He signed a two-year deal and is committed -- even completing the full offseason program, claiming it was the first time he's done so in his career. That pleased Fisher who commended his attendance. He's been limited to one-a-days to stay fresh and might not be as freakish as he once was, but he'll still be a valuable addition to the defensive line. As for distractions, it didn't help that he received a DUI in June on the Vanderbilt campus with a hearing Sept. 3.