NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans safety Daimion Stafford is down 20 pounds from last season, and if you ask him about it, you might get a little bit too much information.
"I got out of the shower one day and looked in the mirror,'' Stafford said with a smile. "I was like, 'Boy, you're a little too big. You better lose some of that if you want to fly around and play in space."
It was classic Stafford. He delivered the truth with humor, and it worked.
These days, a lighter, more confident Stafford is coming up big for the Titans.
A seventh-round pick by the Titans in the 2013 NFL Draft, Stafford plays a big role in the Tennessee secondary on Sundays. His role is expected to increase on Sunday in Houston with Da'Norris Searcy sidelined with an ankle injury.
Stafford's coaches and teammates say he's more ready than he's ever been. Prior to the start of the season, Stafford was voted a team captain by his teammates.
"He has really had a good year, a really a good year,'' coach Mike Mularkey said of Stafford, who has 10 tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass defensed in the first three weeks. "He is playing good football. And to be voted captain, it shows you teammates recognize he is doing things the right way.
"I just think he is all business now. I think early on he was happy being in the NFL, at least that was his body language. But when he comes out here now, it is all about working and getting better. He still has fun, there is no doubt he is having fun. But it is a different kind of fun the way he approaches things."
Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau also raved about Stafford recently, praising his work ethic, and his play. LeBeau said Stafford made a lot of big plays in the team's Week 2 win in Detroit.
"I can think of a lot of game-deciding plays that he made,'' LeBeau said of Stafford. "Coverage in the end zone, a big tackle. ... He just made a lot of key plays. He just played outstanding in that game."
Stafford cut his weight from roughly 235 pounds last year to around 215 this season. He feels faster on the field, and better off it.
Now in his fourth NFL season, Stafford said he feels more comfortable in the defense than at any time in his career. Stafford said he learned from veterans like Bernard Pollard, George Wilson and Michael Griffin earlier in his career, and now he's taking advantage of the veterans around him like Rashad Johnson, Jason McCourty and Searcy.
But he admits he also got more serious, and put in more time for himself.
"I had bad eyes, not looking in right places, not knowing the right checks to put the team in,'' Stafford said of his early days in the league. "Now I pride myself in doing that right.
"And I feel like I am getting older and the game is slowing down for me. Things are slowing down and when I study the game I am able to put myself in a better position."
Don't let the serious talk fool you, though. Stafford admits he's a jokester, and he considers it his role to keep things light around the team by cracking jokes. He's proven he's not afraid to make a wise crack when Mularkey walks in the room for a serious team meeting.
"I just try and relax things,'' Stafford said.
He's gone above and beyond there, McCourty said.
"He is a clown, there is no better way to explain it,'' McCourty said of Stafford. "In Year 4, there is nothing he does that surprises me.
"But you need different personalities on a team. For our group, he's a guy who can be a comedian, but he's also a tough guy. He is not afraid, and he's not going to back down from anybody, and will hit anybody in the mouth. But he'll also make you laugh at any given point.
"In all seriousness, it speaks volumes this year that he was voted captain. And I think when you have new responsibilities, he's the type of guy that steps up to the plate and accepts those roles. For him, he has not only been a captain on special teams, but he has contributed a lot more on defense this year. He has continued to improve himself as a player and a person."
Stafford, who has played in 50 games since 2013, with two starts, said he's ready to do even more moving forward.
After playing 37 of the team's 65 snaps against the Raiders, he's expected to be on the field even more against the Texans.
He'll do it with a smile on his face, even though he's dead serious. Sometimes.
"Coming in as a seventh-round draft pick, I knew I didn't have much room to spare – you better do things right,'' Stafford said. "And you never want to let your brothers down. Just like I lean on guys to get sacks – I'll tell guys to go get me one. I want them to be able to lean on me and trust me the same way.
"But I'm going to have fun, always. I try to make everything fun."
Titans players take the field for Wednesday's practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn, Amber Harding)