Munchak's Methods Make for Successful Training Camp

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt spent the offseason finding new pieces to Tennessee's puzzle, and new Titans coach Mike Munchak used training camp to bond those elements.

The biggest structural changes Reinfeldt made were two new quarterbacks (veteran Matt Hasselbeck and rookie Jake Locker), a new middle linebacker (Barrett Ruud to replace the departure of Stephen Tulloch), and larger players at defensive tackle than the Titans had in 2010.

With so many personnel changes in an offseason that was dramatically compressed by the NFL lockout, Munchak emphasized team-building activities at training camp this year. The NFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman knows the importance of working together and explored different ways of building and strengthening bonds.

The entire team stayed at a hotel during camp, went on a bowling excursion and participated in a cookout with all their families. Munchak asked players to avoid using headphones in the weight room and leave big stereos and video game systems out of the locker room. Munchak also gave players a half-day to go eat together and gave them this past Tuesday off by ending training camp a day early.

"You think you have a lot of good ideas of what you would do, but then when it's your time to do it you start thinking 'Well, do I want to do that?' and when it's your turn to pull the trigger on certain things like when you are trying to give guys the day off, it's more about if this is something that they really need.

"You don't plan for that; those kinds of things just kind of work their way into the schedule," Munchak said of ending camp early. "It almost seemed like the schedule was telling me, 'Hey, these guys need a day off. Don't try to force another day out of them on Tuesday.' "

Hasselbeck has more years in the NFL than any other member of the Titans. His first two seasons were in Green Bay as a backup, and he spent the next 10 seasons in Seattle. Hasselbeck signed with Tennessee on July 29, and began adjusting to his new coaches, teammates and town. He said this week that he's enjoyed the atmosphere that Munchak established.

"He wants people to actually talk to each other," Hasselbeck said. "I've been in locker rooms where 10 guys in a row are staring at their phones and not having a real conversation with the human being next to them. I think there's a method to some of the things he's done, and it's helped the bond come quicker."

Hasselbeck described the camp as "different" but with some similarities to other camps he's completed.

"The soreness, the grinding, the sprints at the end of practice, up-downs were kind of new but it was all training camp stuff," Hasselbeck said. "(Strength and conditioning coach) Steve Watterson brought some cutting edge ideas to training camp and Coach Munchak brought some old school things that he did when he played. I think the team started to come together. I'd say it was a success."

Safety Chris Hope, who's entering his 10th season in the NFL and sixth with the Titans, said the team has been like a family so far.

"It's been a good environment, a high-spirited training camp where we competed against each other but we often took care of each other," said Hope, adding there were multiple opportunities to learn about "accountability and trust."

"You learn who will quit on you and who won't quit on you," Hope said. "You learn how to bring out the best in your teammate, and we learned how to work together and at the same time take care of each other. That made us a better unit."

Hope, who was on the Steelers team that won Super Bowl XL against Hasselbeck's Seahawks, said the success stemmed from what the team did before the season.

"It was all about the offseason, forming those relationships and that camaraderie," Hope said. "You didn't want to let the man next to you down."

Munchak said the experimentation in establishing his methods and strategies has been "fun."

"I enjoyed it," Munchak said. "I thought it was a challenge and that was one part, just like each part of this job has been interesting from signing coaches, to the draft, to now camp and now we are getting into preseason games and into the season."

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