NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt wanted to throw as much of his system at offensive players as possible during this week's voluntary minicamp and was able to do so in part because Charlie Whitehurst was throwing to backs, tight ends and receivers.
Whitehurst joined Tennessee as a free agent this offseason to back up Jake Locker after doing the same in San Diego where he learned Whisenhunt's system when the new Titans coach was offensive coordinator of the Chargers. Locker participated in individual drills but not team activity, so Whitehurst participated with the first team, with Tyler Wilson also taking reps this week.
Whisenhunt views Whitehurst as an extension of the coaching staff, and Whitehurst said Thursday after the minicamp wrapped that he's trying to have an in-season command of the offense.
"Obviously as a quarterback, you're helping guys on the field, but it's a little new for me, knowing the offense and the other guys don't know it as well so you get more questions this time of year when you're that guy that's been in the offense a year," Whitehurst said. "It's been more demanding of me to make sure in April and May that you know the offense as good as you know it in July, August and December, so it's put a little pressure on me, which I think is really good and has made me better."
Veteran receiver Nate Washington, who had Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator with the Steelers 2005-06, said Whitehurst's recent familiarity with the offense is helping everyone else grasp the changes.
"He's the walking playbook. He knows the ins and outs and has played under Coach Whisenhunt recently and understands what Coach Whisenhunt expects out of his offense," Washington said. "He's the one out there right now that's able to put us in the right direction if things aren't going right or if guys make a mistake. He's the guy that can give us the adjustment or the info on what we need to do. He was much needed. Without Charlie right now, I don't think things would be going as smoothly. He knows the intricacies of the offense and that's all we can ask for, continue to get better with him, listen to him and grow."
The Titans begin Phase II of their offseason program Monday. Coaches are allowed to work on the field with position groups but not have team periods during the middle segment of the three-phase program. Tennessee is scheduled to begin organized team activity practices May 27, and is optimistic that Locker will be able to fully participate during some or all of the OTAs.
Whisenhunt was generally pleased with what the team was able to accomplish with the minicamp that was an option for all NFL teams with new head coaches.
"I thought Charlie did well. He's got an advantage, because he understands the terminology," Whisenhunt said. "You can kind of see it catch up with Tyler (Wilson) a little bit (Thursday) because we got into so many different aspects of it, but Charlie was comfortable. It was a good minicamp for him."
Whitehurst echoed what other teammates said about the level of communication that existed during the minicamp and said it is a good starting point for everyone to grasp the offense.
"I think communication between quarterbacks and the offensive line (Thursday) was noticeably better than the first two days. That's one of the parts of the offense that takes the longest: blitz pickup and all of that, so we saw some progress with that for sure.
"I think we've got a lot of work to do," Whitehurst said. "We've got to keep going, but the start has been impressive to me. From a mental standpoint, the guys really picked up on it pretty quickly."