NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans receiver Tre McBride was understandably disappointed when he didn't make the team's 53-man roster to start the season.
But he didn't put on a sad face and mope.
Instead, as a member of the team's 10-man practice squad, McBride has put on the uniform number of receivers like Amari Cooper, DeAndre Hopkins and Jarvis Landry each week in practices, and done his best impression. McBride's teammates – and head coach -- have praised him for getting them prepared for Sundays.
"Tre does an awesome job week in and week out being the other team's best receiver, and I know myself and everyone else in the secondary is appreciative of the way he works,'' Titans cornerback Jason McCourty said of McBride, a seventh-round pick by the Titans in 2015 who played in seven games last season. "I trained with Tre this offseason so I know how badly he wanted to be active and helping on Sundays.
"But I am proud of the way he has worked. He's made us better. Obviously he is not where he wants to be, but he has worked his butt off and he really takes pride in giving us the best look he can. And it's helped get us ready."
The Titans have fared well against top receivers this season.
This past Sunday, the Titans held Landry to just three catches for 28 yards in a win over the Dolphins. Landry entered the contest ranked second in the NFL in catches. He's averaged eight catches for 94 yards in Miami's other four games.
The previous week, the Titans held Hopkins to just one catch for four yards against the Texans. Hopkins has 21 catches for 279 yards and three touchdowns in Houston's other four games.
In Week 3, the Titans held Cooper to four catches for 62 yards in a game against the Raiders. Cooper has averaged six catches for 99 yards in Oakland's other four games.
While other factors have been involved in the Titans holding their own against their opponents' best receiver each week, one thing has been constant: McBride has played the part of that player each week in practices. He's worn the uniform number of the player Wednesday through Friday, even if he's been in street clothes on Sundays.
Players on the practice squad work with the team throughout the week, but don't dress out for games.
"He is helping,'' Mularkey said of McBride. "He is typically the game-wrecker receiver for the opponent, and he gives us a very good look. He is a playmaker, and he wants to make all the plays. Tre is the guy.
"Tre's time is coming, it is. He just has to understand where we are roster wise. But his attitude has been outstanding."
McBride, who caught a touchdown pass at the end of last season, was one of the stars of the offseason for the Titans. He led the team with 10 catches for 95 yards in the preseason, in fact.
The Titans currently have six receivers on the roster – Kendall Wright, Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe, Andre Johnson, Harry Douglas and Marc Mariani. McBride, who played at William & Mary, is the only receiver on the practice squad.
"Tre is a good receiver,'' Titans safety Kevin Byard said. "He gives us good looks, and great effort, and it's good for the defense to have a receiver with the ability to give up those looks for different receivers and helping our preparation."
McBride said he takes great pride in making sure the defense is ready.
This week, McBride is playing the role of Browns receiver/Wildcat quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
"I get excited whenever we have a receiver highlighted, and I get to be that guy,'' McBride said. "That means a lot of targets in practice, and it means an opportunity to show I have game as well, while helping the defense.
"I don't take it easy by any means, and I think guys appreciate the fact I go after every ball and try and make it tough on them. Any time I am on the field I take pride in playing good football."
McBride eventually hopes to one day be back on the 53-man roster, and playing on Sundays.
Until then, he'll keep doing his thing during the week, to get the Titans ready.
Just don't look for him in No.10, his real number.
"For now, all I can do is continue to work and wait, and keep on playing good football," McBride said. "These guys know I can play, I showed them in preseason. So it is just a matter of having an opportunity, and hopefully it will come. Until then I just have to keep doing what I am doing.'
Titans WR Tre McBride visits Fort Campbell, telling civilians and students about his time as a military child and path to the NFL. (Photos: Brittany Selbert)