College life is over
Fisher shies Titans away from dorm life during camp
This is the seventh in a series of postcards Sports Illustrated's Peter King will e-mail from his NFL training camp tour.
Saturday, July 28
Team: Tennessee Titans
Site: Titans training facility at Baptist Sports Park in Nashville, Tenn. Head coach Jeff Fisher is not much into the sequestering-the-boys-at-a-small-college-in-Podunksville mentality, which I'd like to discuss further. Down in the column. Just wait 'til then.
Five observations from practice that you just can't get anywhere else:
(First of all, a quick observation about lightning. Yesterday in Jacksonville, I saw 15 minutes of it -- near and far -- around the Jags' training facility. But it was full-speed ahead for the workout. I'm looking up at the team videographer, up in one of those metal cherrypicker things and wondering if I'm going to be live on CNN that night, talking about the poor sap who got struck and killed by lightning just doing his job. The Jags cut practice a few minutes short, but I was amazed, and troubled, by how long head coach Tom Coughlin went in the gathering electrical storm. This afternoon, in the second of two practices for the Titans, the team ran for the indoor bubble as soon as the first bolt of lightning flashed. Felt sorry for the 500 or so fans who had to leave, but lightning is nothing to be messed with.)
1. Big question here is wideout Kevin (I Was Picked Before Randy Moss in the '99 draft) Dyson's recuperating ACL, and early in the morning workout, Steve McNair sent him flying up the left sideline on a go route, working against a corner whose number I didn't catch. McNair rainbowed one 45 yards in the air. Dyson stretched, stretched, stretched -- and gloved it. Great throw. Great test of Dyson's speed. Great catch. This is what Tennessee needs to be good.
2. McNair threw a lot in the morning, and remember, he had the weird shoulder injury last year, the injury that developed an infection and caused him to miss a couple of months of offseason work. "A little stiff," he told me after practice. "But normal."
3. I like Andre Dyson, Kevin's brother and cornerback draft choice. McNair whistled a cross-route throw over the middle, Dyson shadowing rookie receiver Marshaun Tucker, and Dyson stepped in front of Tucker and made a beautiful pick. "Wooo-Woooo-Woooo!!!" his new teammates yelled. A truly big-time, veteran play. Andre Dyson will play in this league.
4. I didn't see a quality backup for Eddie George, something that's pretty vital. My bet is former Bill Jonathan Linton wins the job.
5. Two very good players to watch: Josh Evans, coming off the one-year NFL substance-abuse ban, should start at a defensive tackle. And fourth-round pick Justin McCareins, a wide receiver from Northern Illinois. This is one heck of a smooth, deceptively fast receiver. He could well be the Titans' fourth receiver, behind Derrick Mason, Chris Sanders and Kevin Dyson.
Opinion/factoid that might be interesting only to me: The Titans have sold 45,000 tickets, at $10 a pop, for a scrimmage at Adelphia Coliseum in Nashville next Saturday against Indianapolis. Peyton Manning's Indianapolis.
"We should have more than 50,000," Titans president Jeff Diamond told me at the morning practice. "I think it's probably more us than Peyton." My guess is that Manning helps a little.
The food: I blew it. The media can eat what the players eat here, but it was getting late, and my cavernous gut was rumbling, and I saw no action around the food area outside the Titans' media room, and so I ducked out to Subway.
Hopefully, I learned my lesson. Never assume you can't steal food from an NFL team.
Dear NFL Junkie:
Fisher is one of the common-sense guys in football. When I need a barometer on some league issue, or some player, Fisher's private line will ring in his office, and 90 percent of the time, he'll pick it up and spend more time than I need on whatever I need.
So here's my question of the day to Fisher, whose Titans work year-round in the same practice facility: Why are you one of the few teams in the NFL that doesn't go on that famous male-bonding experience known as training camp? "When you see those photos of players going to camp, what do you see?" he said, sitting behind his regular desk, not the college-issued thing most of his peers are sitting behind today.
"Guys carrying TVs from their trunks, guys carrying suitcases. And you know as soon as they go into these dorm rooms or camp rooms wherever they are, they've got one goal. They're circling the camp-closing date on their calendar. They just want it to be over.
"Here, I just don't believe you build team chemistry by locking teams in dorms, or taking away their privileges, or making rookies sing. I believe you build chemistry by winning. And the best way to win, I think, is by working in the best working environment possible. And that's what I think we have here."
"But," I said, "that's not the only way it works." I'm thinking Denver goes away and wins, and the last two Super Bowl winners, Baltimore and St. Louis, go away and win.
"Obviously not," he said. "But it's the way I think is best for our players. Our veteran guys can go home at night and be with their families if they want. Or they can stay in the hotel. It's up to them. I think they appreciate that."
Next up: Denver Broncos.