NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans are scheduled to begin training camp this week at Saint Thomas Sports Park in Nashville. Rookies and veterans report to camp on Friday, July 29, and will practice for the first time the next day under the direction of head coach Mike Mularkey.
Fans of the Titans are invited to watch 10 total training camp practices free of charge, beginning with the July 30 workout at 2:40 p.m. CDT. The remaining practices that are open to the public are scheduled for July 31 and Aug. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 15. All but one of the open practices will take place at Saint Thomas Sports Park, with the exception being Aug. 6 at Nissan Stadium. Training camp is the only time of the year that practices are open to the general public.
Free parking for training camp is available directly across the street from Saint Thomas Sports Park (460 Great Circle Road) at the CVS/Caremark corporate offices. Security is present to assist in crossing the street before, during and after practice.
Once inside the gates of the Titans complex, visitors can observe from the perimeter of the practice field, but onlookers should be prepared to stand in typical Middle Tennessee summer heat for the duration of their visit, as shade and seating are very limited.
A Titans Locker Room merchandise trailer is set up next to the practice field selling a wide selection of Titans apparel. Cold non-alcoholic beverages also will be available to purchase.
For an up-to-date camp schedule, fans can call the team's training camp hotline at (615) 565-4190, or they can go to the team's official website, TitansOnline.com/TrainingCamp.
FIRST LOOK AT ROSTER UNDER ROBINSON AND MULARKEY
On the field, Titans fans will get their first glimpse of the team as constructed by new general manager Jon Robinson and Mularkey, each of whom were named to their posts in January by controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk. Although he is a native of Union City, Tenn., Robinson is a newcomer to the organization. Mularkey was hired as tight ends coach in 2014, promoted to assistant head coach/tight ends coach during the 2015 offseason, and then spent the final nine games of 2015 as interim head coach.
In the six months since the hires, the makeup of the team has undergone significant turnover. Currently, 36 of the 89 players on the active roster (40.4 percent) were not on it in 2015. Ten of the additions were drafted, two were waiver claims, one was acquired via trade, and 23 were signed as free agents.
Although he is a 40-year-old, first-year general manager, Robinson is a seasoned evaluator of football talent. The Southeast Missouri State graduate spent the last two seasons as director of player personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following a 12-year stint in the scouting department of the New England Patriots, including five seasons (2009–2013) as director of college scouting for the Patriots.
Robinson and the Titans were active in the initial stages of free agency, adding several veterans who are expected to start or compete for significant roles. Included in the crop were cornerbacks Brice McCain (formerly of the Miami Dolphins) and Antwon Blake (Pittsburgh Steelers), safety Rashad Johnson (Arizona Cardinals), center Ben Jones (Houston Texans), wide receiver Rishard Matthews (Dolphins), linebacker Sean Spence (Steelers) and backup quarterback Matt Cassel (Dallas Cowboys).
But Robinson's early Tennessee tenure is perhaps most notable for a pair of trades he negotiated. The first of these came in March, when the Titans agreed with the Philadelphia Eagles to swap fourth-rounders (Titans' 100th overall pick for the Eagles' 113th pick) in order for Tennessee to obtain veteran running back DeMarco Murray.
Later, the Titans and Los Angeles Rams consummated one of the biggest trades in recent NFL Draft history. On April 14, two weeks before the start of the draft, the Titans dealt the first overall selection to the Rams along with a fourth-round pick (113th overall) and a sixth-rounder (177th overall). In exchange, the Titans received the 15th overall pick in the first round, two second-rounders (43rd and 45th overall), a third-rounder (76th overall) and the Rams' first- and third-round picks in 2017.
With their original picks, plus the haul from the Rams trade and subsequent draft-day deals, the final result was a 10-member draft class, headlined by Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin, who the team aggressively traded back up to the eighth selection to get. They picked three second-rounders: Clemson outside linebacker Kevin Dodd (33rd overall), Penn State defensive lineman Austin Johnson (43rd) and Alabama running back Derrick Henry (45th). In selecting Henry a year after landing quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Titans got the reigning Heisman Trophy winner for the second consecutive year.
MARIOTA ENTERS SECOND YEAR
Despite the curiosity attached to the newcomers, no member of the Titans is likely to attract more gazes from the training camp devotees than Mariota, whose leadership status and steady disposition belie his 22 years and relative inexperience.
As a rookie, the former Oregon Duck recorded 12 total starts, missing four contests due to injury. Even with the abbreviated campaign, he set the club's rookie passing marks for attempts (370), yards (2,818), completions (230), touchdowns (19) and passer rating (91.5). Only Steve McNair in his MVP season of 2003 (100.4 passer rating) and Hall of Famer Warren Moon in 1990 (96.8) finished with a better passer rating in a Titans/Oilers season than Mariota did in 2015. His 62.2 completion percentage not only set the franchise rookie record but also qualified as the fifth-highest rookie percentage in NFL history. Mariota also joined Peyton Manning (1998) as the only NFL rookie quarterbacks to ever complete three touchdown passes in four different games.
On the ground, the dual-threat signal caller accounted for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns, ranking second in franchise history in rushing yards by a rookie quarterback. His highlight-reel 87-yard touchdown run against Jacksonville (Dec. 6) was the fifth-longest rushing play in franchise history and the longest NFL rushing play of 2015.
MULARKEY AND STAFF LOOKING FOR THEIR KIND OF PLAYERS
Mularkey wasted little time in defining the sought-after characteristics of players on his roster. "Smart, tough, physical, coachable and accountable" was how he put it at his opening press conference in January, and the sentiment was echoed in the subsequent months by Robinson.
The winnowing process began with the offseason program from April through June. It continues when players report following a six-week break, and then there are only two weeks from the initial training camp practice to Aug. 13, when the Titans host the San Diego Chargers in the first of four preseason games. The preseason itinerary also includes a Saturday afternoon home game against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 20, a nationally-televised visit to the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 27 and the final tuneup at the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 1.
The bulk of the roster decisions occur primarily in two waves: first on Aug. 30, when the roster is pared from 90 to 75, and second on Sept. 3, when final cuts are made. A 10-member practice squad may be formed as early as Sept. 4.
Mularkey is embarking on his 22nd NFL season as a coach and his fourth as a head coach. He had previous stints as a head coach with the Buffalo Bills (2004–2005) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2012) in addition to his time as an assistant. The former NFL tight end has been an offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2001–2003), Miami Dolphins (2006) and Atlanta Falcons (2008–2011).
Mularkey's first order of business upon accepting the role as head coach in Tennessee was hiring his top assistants, starting with Dick
LeBeau as the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. A veteran of 57 years as a player or coach in the NFL, LeBeau arrived in 2015 as the assistant head coach/defense, and in his first year in Tennessee, the defense improved in nearly every category, including total defense (27th to 12th), rush defense (31st to 18th) and pass defense (15th to seventh).
LeBeau's unit looks to get a boost from the return of two veteran leaders who battled injuries last season: cornerback Jason McCourty and outside linebacker Derrick Morgan. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and ascending players like inside linebacker Avery Williamson and defensive end DaQuan Jones likewise figure prominently in LeBeau's scheme.
Mularkey's choice for offensive coordinator was Atlanta Falcons wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie. Robiskie has spent six of his 34 years in coaching as an offensive coordinator and was an interim head coach on two occasions.
The offense inherited by Robiskie is one of the club's youngest in recent years. In 2015, 42.9 percent of the team's offensive snaps were by rookies, first-year or second-year players; more than a quarter of the offensive snaps—25.8 percent—were by rookies alone. Both numbers represented four-year team highs.
With the unusually high rate of youth, the 2015 offense relied heavily on tight end Delanie Walker. In his 10th NFL campaign, Walker earned his first Pro Bowl nod after setting new franchise tight end records with 94 receptions and 1,088 receiving yards. Walker received a multi-year contract extension earlier in 2016.
#TITANSCAMP ONLINE COVERAGE
Titans Online will offer comprehensive written and video content from training camp on a daily basis. Senior writer and editor Jim Wyatt enters his second season covering the Titans for the team's website. The Nashville native began covering the Titans as a writer for The Tennessean in 1999 and became the full-time beat writer in 2001. He has been named Tennessee Sportswriter of the Year six times by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and twice has been named as one of the top beat writers in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors.
Additionally, Titans Online and its accompanying mobile app will have daily videos following every practice, offering fans immediate updates on the news of the day. The "Voice of the Titans" Mike Keith, broadcast coordinator Amie Wells and Wyatt will contribute to the daily camp shows, in addition other guests.
Fans can follow the Titans through camp on the club's social media platforms, including Facebook (facebook.com/titans), Twitter (@Titans), Instagram (@Titans) and Snapchat (nfltitans). Users are encouraged to use the hashtag #TitansCamp to participate in ongoing conversations from training camp.
TRAINING CAMP ESSENTIALS
Training camp is the best time for fans to get an up-close look at the current Tennessee Titans. It is the only time of the year when practice is open to the public. A total of 10 practices are scheduled for fans to watch from July 30 through Aug. 15. For more information on Titans training camp, fans can call the team's training camp hotline at (615) 565-4190 or log on to the team's official website, TitansOnline.com.
FAN ADMISSION AND PARKING: Admission to practice and parking for fans is free at Saint Thomas Sports Park. Fans attending training camp can park directly across the street from Saint Thomas Sports Park in the CVS/Caremark corporate offices at 445 Great Circle Road. Parking on the property of other area businesses could result in the vehicle being towed.
Directions to training camp parking:
From Interstate 65 in downtown Nashville, take Exit 85 (Rosa Parks Boulevard) North.
Proceed on Rosa Parks Boulevard and turn right on Athens Way.
Turn left on Great Circle Road.
Security officials will direct fans to the parking lot on the right and assist crossing the street into Saint Thomas Sports Park.
At the practice facility, fans are permitted to walk along and watch from the perimeter of the practice field. Gates to the practice field generally open 15 minutes prior to the scheduled practice. Fans should be prepared to stand during practice, as bleacher seating is very limited. Workouts inside the practice "bubble" are closed to the general public.
PRACTICE TIMES: Practice start times at Saint Thomas Sports Park are 8:55 a.m. (Aug. 1, 2, 4 and 5), 2:40 p.m. (July 30-31), 3:10 p.m. (Aug. 9), and 6:55 p.m. (Aug. 8 and 15). On Saturday, Aug. 6, practice at Nissan Stadium begins at 6 p.m. Practices typically last two hours but can run shorter or longer.
AUTOGRAPHS: Every player on the Titans roster will take part in a free autograph session after practice at least once during training camp. Generally, 8-10 players are assigned to the autograph schedule each day, and usually the players sign autographs along the sideline of the field nearest to the fan entrance. Additional players may choose to sign autographs at their discretion. The players' time is limited, however, and fans are not guaranteed to receive autographs. A tentative autograph schedule is released approximately one week in advance at TitansOnline.com and through various media outlets. The autograph schedule is subject to change without notice.
DRESS APPROPRIATELY: Fans should dress appropriately for the heat of Middle Tennessee. Training camp practices often take place during the hottest portions of the day, and there are very few shaded areas overlooking the practice fields at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
WEATHER POLICY: For the safety of fans, players, media and staff members, practice will be postponed, canceled or moved indoors if stormy weather threatens Saint Thomas Sports Park. For safety reasons, fans will not be allowed to wait at the practice field and will be asked to return to their vehicles. In some cases, practice also could be moved indoors due to extreme heat. All indoor ("bubble") practices are closed to the general public.
MERCHANDISE AND CONCESSIONS: A Titans Locker Room merchandise trailer will be open during all practices, selling a variety of Titans goods and apparel. The merchandise tent will be located at the entrance to the practice field. Additionally, a concession stand selling ice cold Coca-Cola products will be open during all practices. Fans are permitted to bring their own refreshments. However, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited.
ACCESS TO PRACTICE IS ON A FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED BASIS: Although over-crowding is rare at training camp practices, there is a limit to the number of fans who can safely attend practices. Fans arriving first will be given first priority.
The Titans may carry 90 players on their roster at the start of training camp. Clubs must trim their active rosters twice prior to the start of the regular season.
At 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Aug. 30, three days after the Titans' third preseason game, the roster can have a maximum of 75 active players. On Saturday, Sept. 3, two days after the Titans' fourth and final preseason game, the NFL mandates active rosters reach their regular-season limit of 53 players by 3 p.m. CT.
Players placed on reserve lists such as Injured Reserve, Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform and Reserve/Suspended do not count towards the 53-man active roster limit.
After the final cutdown, a 10-player practice squad may be established as early as 11 a.m. CT on Sunday, Sept. 4.
Titans veterans and rookies take the field for Day 2 of minicamp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Donn Jones, Gary Glenn)