Bernard Pollard Leading by Example as Training Camp Draws Near


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There is no substitute for preparation. And with the start of training camp right around the corner, veteran safety Bernard Pollard is making sure he's ready to go when players report to Saint Thomas Sports Park on Friday, July 25.

"I've had a routine for a while now," said Pollard, one of the team's defensive leaders who re-signed with the Titans in March after joining the team in free agency a year ago. "Just being around veteran players and seeing and understanding some of the things that they're doing has helped me over the years. My body is used to how I lift. My body is used to how I diet. It's used to the way I practice. It's a must."

An offseason workout regimen isn't just preparation for two-a-days in August, but for the grind of a 16-week season.

"For me, I'm getting my body ready for November and December football," said Pollard. "I understand that I have to do overtime on my workouts because that's when football really starts."

After signing a one-year deal with the Titans a year ago, Pollard more than carried his weight in 2013. The defensive co-captain started all 16 games and led the team with a career-high 142 tackles, the second-highest by a Titans/Oilers safety since 1990. He also ranked second on the club with three interceptions. Instead of testing free agency again, Pollard opted to return to Tennessee, signing a deal that will keep him in a Titans uniform for at least two more seasons.

Pollard is set to begin his ninth NFL campaign in 2014 and is still known as one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league. To maintain such a physical style of play requires a dedication to diet and fitness that only grows as the years go on.

"You have to know and understand as football players that we really don't have down time," explained Pollard. "At all times we've got to be doing something active, whether it's running or lifting. Some guys are doing CrossFit. For a lot of us, we have to be smart in how we attack the offseason."

As is typically the case, players use the month of July differently. Some return home to train to be close to family. Others, like Pollard, have stayed in Nashville to gear up for camp. Regardless of their process, each player will be held to the same standard upon their arrival next Friday.

"Coach (Whisenhunt) is a hard-nose coach," said Pollard. "His coaching staff demands things from us and holds us accountable. We're required to work hard and you either do it or you're out the door. That's exciting for me. I've been under a lot of coaches, and coach Whiz is someone I've learned a lot from in a short amount of time. It makes it that much more exciting going into the year." 

With the arrival of Whisenhunt also came new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The two coaches spent two years together in Arizona before Horton served as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2013. Horton has already begun implementing his 3-4 defense with the Titans, a change from the 4-3 scheme a season ago. 

"Coach Horton and the rest of his staff have been outstanding for us. They're going to allow us to do different things," said Pollard. "They're going to allow us to impose our toughness and our will on people. At the end of the day we have to have heart to go in there and make that hit and make that winning-play. That's what we didn't do last year. This scheme gives us so much more to do."

Pollard anchors a defense that is full of veteran talent. The Titans increased their depth at linebacker during the offseason, adding veterans Shaun Phillips and Wesley Woodyard from the reigning AFC Champion Denver Broncos. They also used a fifth-round draft pick on Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson.

Pollard, Phillips, and other veterans have played in a 3-4 system before and will help bridge the gap with the rest of their teammates. Pollard said he has no doubts that Tennessee's defense will be ready for the season.

"We don't have a choice," Pollard stated bluntly. "I signed back with this team because I want to make a splash now, not later. We're not in this thing to rebuild. We're not in this thing for guys to take time to learn the system. We've had our time in OTA's and guys have adjusted well. For the most part, when we start practicing Saturday (July 26), we've got to get out and go."

Titans Online looks at the career of safety Bernard Pollard during his first two seasons in Nashville. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

Coming off a Super Bowl championship with the Ravens a year ago, Pollard has been doing his part to help instill a winning mindset in Tennessee's locker room. The Titans have a combined record of 36-44 over the past five seasons and haven't made the playoffs since 2008. However, Pollard believes this could be year to end the team's post-season drought and take the next step as a franchise. 

"It's time we step up as leaders and as a football team make that turn," proclaimed Pollard. "No more 7-9. No more 8-8. We have to be a 12-plus win team. That's what it takes. We have to be a team that can hold onto leads and come back when we are down. It's about getting over the adversity during the year."

Pollard is a chosen leader of a team that has high ambitions, a role he welcomes and thrives in. When asked if he was 100 percent healthy going into training camp, Pollard didn't leave much gray area.

"I better be," Pollard said. "I have goals. I see our team going in a certain way and I have to do whatever I can to help lead. I have to be in tip-top shape because if I'm not then I'm failing our team."

While Whisenhunt has been the driving force of optimism throughout the offseason, it's team leaders like Pollard that have the responsibility of keeping spirits high when adversity strikes during the season.

"I feel the optimism, but I've felt this before and seen it slip," Pollard reminisced. "The energy is always going to be there, but it's about how you bounce back from adversity. That's one of the biggest things for me. We have a mentally tough football team. There are still some things that we need to get rid of, but coach Whiz has brought a mindset that this is going to be something special."

Pollard stands by his coach and has no plans of letting the Titans' offseason momentum fall by the wayside – quite the opposite, in fact. 

"I truly believe we are going to be a team that is playing for the Super Bowl championship," Pollard said with noticeable conviction in his voice. "I truly believe it. That's me."

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