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Babineaux, Smith Give Titans Depth at Safety

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The NFL lockout created a shortened offseason in which coaches and scouts could think about players, but couldn't take action. When the lockout was resolved, teams went on signing sprees.

The Titans acquired 14 years of NFL experience and three total Super Bowl appearances by inking two versatile free agent signees in a span of five days.

Jordan Babineaux, who spent his first seven NFL seasons in Seattle, signed on Aug. 5. Anthony Smith, who previously played for four teams, joined Tennessee's squad on Aug. 9. Both men were brought in to compete for roster spots, which they earned through training camp and preseason games.

Babineaux and Smith played as reserve defensive backs last week in Tennessee's season opener at Jacksonville, and both are expected to play when the Titans host Baltimore at noon Sunday at LP Field.

Babineaux likely will start at safety in place of Chris Hope against the Ravens. Hope missed practice Wednesday and Thursday while recovering from a dislocated shoulder. Babineaux said Hope, who is in his sixth season with Tennessee, has helped him adjust to his new team.

"The transition has been great," Babineaux said. "Chris has been very helpful. He's helped me understand the guys he's been playing with. It's just developing chemistry where we can go out and jell and not miss a beat."

Babineaux brought with him the nickname "Big Play Babs" that stemmed from game-changing plays he delivered during Seattle's run to Super Bowl XL. Babineaux delivered two interceptions and forced a fumble in the Titans' preseason games. Babineaux said he wants to be an impact player as quickly as possible in the regular season, too, and the time he spent last year when Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray was the Seahawks' secondary coach has also helped him adjust.

"I'm coming to a defense where I'm somewhat familiar with the terminology, but more so, I'm familiar with the scheme," Babineaux said. "I think Coach Gray has been doing a great job of implementing his plan with the core group of guys that's been here."

Gray said Babineaux "understands what I'm trying to get done. He's got good athletic ability and can go out there and cover the tight ends, step up and stop the run."

Smith is no stranger to adjusting to new teams. He spent the first three seasons of his career with the Steelers, where he helped Pittsburgh win Super Bowl XLIII. Smith began the 2009 in Green Bay's training camp, but he was released and claimed off waivers by St. Louis at the start of the regular season. After the Rams released Smith midseason, he signed with Jacksonville. The Jaguars traded Smith to the Packers in October 2010, and he helped Green Bay in its march to winning Super Bowl XLV.

"It's been a pretty good transition," Smith said. "We're running a lot of 3-4 stuff, so it's been easy to comprehend. The language is the biggest part."

Smith said he enjoyed and appreciated his most recent trip to the Super Bowl more than the first because he knows how difficult it is to get back there.

"I kind of know the formula for it," Smith said. "You just try to be as positive as you can and help guys out as much as you can."

Hope has started and played in 76 games since joining the Titans in 2006. He missed five games in 2007 with a neck injury, but has made 49 consecutive starts for Tennessee. Hope ranked third on the team in tackles last season with a career-high 133.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said the team will evaluate the progress of Hope's shoulder Friday, but added the team has confidence in Babineaux and Smith to fill the void.

"We talked about this back in training camp, that the competition level there and the depth, I think we definitely need that right now," Munchak said. "That gives us guys we feel we can win with. In this league you have to have that. If someone can't play, you have to have guys … that can step right in."

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