NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Embrace the Titans of the past, and make them a part of the future. That's the mindset of coach Mike Mularkey, general manager Jon Robinson and the team's ownership group, and on Wednesday night the message was delivered to former players during a Titans Alumni Meet And Greet at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
Mularkey, Robinson and Kenneth Adams from the ownership group made it clear during the 90-minute event they want the team's former players to be a part of things moving forward.
"The fact that we are being embraced and welcomed as part of this organization, it makes you feel good. We busted our butts and did everything we could for this organization, and it's nice to feel included, it really is,'' said former Titans tight end Erron Kinney (2000-06). "This means a lot to us, I can tell you that. I really like the direction things are going. I am excited about the way things are coming together."
Former Titans players attend a meet and greet with Titans GM Jon Robinson, head coach Mike Mularkey and his staff at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)
Over a dozen former Titans were on hand Wednesday night at the team's facility, including six members of the Super Bowl team from the 1999 season. Mularkey, Robinson and Adams spoke to the group, and extended an invitation to be a greater part of the organization moving forward.
Mularkey introduced the team's new coaching staff to the players. Hired last month, Mularkey said he wanted to establish one thing from the get-go: Titans from the past are wanted, and needed, moving forward.
"It is important you guys know you are involved,'' Mularkey told the former players. "There will be a lot of change around here, and you guys are a part of it. And our relationship with you guys is very important. If you want to come to practice, come to practice. If you want to come out here and have lunch with the players, come on out. We want you to be involved."
Robinson said he wants the players to feel welcome, and to feel like they're a part of the "Titans family." Adams also said he wants the players to feel connected.
"I thought it was a good thing,'' former Titans receiver Derrick Mason (1997-2004) said. "Coach Mularkey and Jon Robinson, they understand in order for us to move forward and to have success, the players have to understand how success looks. And they have to know what guys before them did to put this organization in the position it was in once upon a time. So it was great to see all the guys here, and it was even better to know the head coach, the GM, and Kenneth, everyone was on board with this.
"This is something we haven't seen in the last decade, to be honest. It was a breath of fresh air and I really do hope things turn around. It seems like they have the right guys in place, and everyone is talking the same language. So there should be some progress moving forward with this team."
Former Titans quarterback Neil O'Donnell (1999-2003) said in the past, some former players haven't always felt as connected. He's glad things are changing.
"I think Mike Mularkey and the new staff is doing a great job of opening the doors and making the former players feel welcome,'' O'Donnell said. "Mike made it very clear to give us a call, and we'll do the best we can to accommodate you if you want to watch practice, eat lunch with the players, and that's what you want.
"This game of football is like a big fraternity, and there's a lot of great memories. Personally I'd like to meet a lot of the young guys because I don't know them and they probably weren't even born yet when I was playing."
Tackle Brad Hopkins, safety Blaine Bishop, receiver Chris Sanders, center Kevin Long, safety Chris Hope, tight end Casey Cramer, safety Donnie Nickey and defensive end Dave Ball were also among those on hand, along with Al Smith, a linebacker with the Houston Oilers who later worked in the front office with the Titans.
Last season, the Titans held a "Homecoming Weekend" during the team's game against the Falcons, and a large group of former players attended. The Titans also welcomed players to a training camp practice last year as well.
Moving forward, Mularkey said the Titans want to do even more. The doors will be open, he said.
"It gives a connection back to the team, the organization, you played for. … It's a tribute to coach Mularkey, Jon Robinson and the new regime to have the wherewithal to do something like this,'' Smith said. "It is a family, and once a Titan, always a Titan. This gives you a great opportunity to connect with the people you have been with."
Sanders, who played from 1995-2002, said he plans to take the team up on its offer.
"It is not about the (former players) against the new guys, it is about a Titans family and that is what Coach Mularkey and Jon Robinson are trying to do,'' Sanders said. "They care about the organization, and you can tell they want to make change. This makes me feel like I am still part of the Titans, still part of the team. It's great to be here."