NASHVILLE, Tenn. --** Maybe it was the triple digit heat. Maybe it's the players settling into this year's camp. Whatever the reason, Sunday's practice took a noticeable step forward on the competition front.
Before practice even got going, Bernard Pollard began chirping at the offense with receiver Nate Washington poking fun back at the Titans safety. Both were heard from on multiple occasions Sunday.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has been praised by his players for letting them be themselves,
and he knows that trash talk comes with the territory.
"That's a part of training camp," said Whisenhunt. "You go through that with players, and you like that. We've got guys on this team that are leaders, and hopefully a week from now when everybody's tired and banged up and we've done some padded practices, they'll still be chirping like that."
Pollard is one of those leaders and was heard from early and often – about everything and nothing. Even during the team stretch Pollard could be heard jeering his teammates.
"Looooooooocker. Looooooooocker," he said toward the team's starting quarterback.
"For me, I like to talk trash," Pollard explained after practice. "I'm a type that when I'm talking, it holds me accountable to do things right. I think for our defense this is what we're about. We need to have an identity and we need to set the tempo. It's great because our coaches are allowing us to go out there and do things."
Pollard had his fun with rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger shouting "roll tide" before one snap – something that had his teammates laughing on the sidelines given the events of last weekend. Pollard made sure to note that most of the talking is all in good fun and helps build the chemistry in the locker room.
"It's exciting for us to go out here together and build comradery," said Pollard. "I had to let him have it, but you know Mettenberger is first of all our brother and we're always going to have our brother's back. Right now we're going against him so we're using everything we have in our belts. It's fun. It's all in fun. This is building our team chemistry."
During the full team drills Nate Washington got in the ear of cornerback Micah Pellerin after being held on multiple occasions. "Stop that stuff," Washington repeated all the way back to the line of scrimmage. It marked the first real sign that the battle between the offense and defense had begun – a battle that will help the team make strides forward going into the season.
"It's like they say 'iron sharpens iron'," said Washington. "We're all brothers out there but we have to make each other better. It has to be a constant fight with us because on Sundays we're going to need a defense to be big and they're going to expect an offense that can light up the scoreboard."
Pollard echoed Washington's point.
"We know the offense is our brothers, but right now they're our competition. They're looking to make us better and we're looking to make them better."
The intensity between the offense and defense is always a theme of training camp, and Sunday provided a glimpse of what is to come Monday when the team puts on full pads.
"I feel like these first couple days were still OTA's to me," said defensive lineman Jurrell Casey. "Now we have the pads on and the real football comes in. This is when we see who the real men are and who can take that pounding day in and day out."
Washington couldn't hide his excitement for the competition to come.
"There's going to be a lot more chippiness," stated Washington with a smile. "I'm pretty sure there will be a few more fights. Big fights. But at the end of the day it's a brotherhood. We all expect the best out of each other and so we're going to push each other to get better. We're there for each other. We leave it on the field and that's where it stays."
On one of the final plays of practice, Shonne Greene ripped off an impressive run that got a rise out of the fans in attendance at Saint Thomas Sports Park. Pollard quickly took exception to the applause.
"Don't cheer for that," said Pollard jokingly towards the fans. "We don't have pads on!"
No BP, you didn't – but starting tomorrow that won't be an issue.