NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Despite playing on an NFC team roughly 700 miles away from Nashville, linebacker Nate Palmer always kept his eye on the Titans, thanks to a good friend on the team.
In fact, when Palmer had an open Sunday after playing a Thursday night game last season while with the Green Bay Packers, he traveled to Nashville to see the Titans play.
It was December 6, the day the Titans beat the Jaguars, 42-39. Quarterback Marcus Mariota put on a show that day, throwing three touchdown passes while also running for another, from 87 yards out.
"It was a heck of a game, and a heck of a run,'' Palmer said. "I didn't realize (Mariota) was that fast. I remember it well. The fans were fired up that day."
At the start of this offseason, the Titans remained on Palmer's radar because of Justin Staples, a linebacker and special teams performer with the team over the past two seasons. Palmer and Staples played college ball together at Illinois, and have remained close. Palmer finished his collegiate career at Illinois State.
Last month, things changed dramatically for Palmer, and his NFL career. He was released by the Packers, and claimed by the Titans the next day. Palmer started 10 games last season for the Packers, and he appeared in all 16 contests, finishing with 68 tackles and a sack.
"Earlier this offseason, on the outside looking in, I would tell Justin, 'Man, I like what your GM is doing there with some of these moves.' I said, 'He's giving you guys some key pieces to compete,''' Palmer said. "I told Justin, 'You guys may have a shot to win the AFC South.' It was all, 'y'all, y'all, y'all.' And then out of nowhere it goes from y'all to 'we.' It's funny because we were talking the day I got claimed and he said, 'It ain't know y'all any more. It's we now.'
Palmer joined the Titans on April 11. He's taking part in the team's offseason program, and competing at the inside linebacker spot. Palmer has played both inside and outside linebacker during his NFL career.
A sixth-round pick out of Illinois State in 2013, Palmer (6-2, 248) missed the entire 2014 season while rehabbing an MCL injury he suffered in the preseason. He played in eight games, with two starts, in 2013.
Earlier this offseason, the Titans also added former Steelers linebacker Sean Spence and former Chargers linebacker Curtis Grant. Staples is also in the competition inside, where Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson return.
Palmer said he's ready to compete.
He's well aware he's a Titan now.
"(Getting released by the Packers) was a true whirlwind of emotions,'' Palmer said. "I really enjoyed my time there, and the friendships I developed there. This is my first time (adapting to a new team), but it's the nature of the game. You have to be able to move on and use it to help fuel you.
"There's a reason why (the Titans) claimed me, and I don't want to disappoint. I really feel like the Titans are one of those up-and-coming teams, and the fans get involved. I feel like they are pretty excited about the upcoming season, especially with the offseason acquisitions. So I feel like it will be fun all around."