NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tuesday marked the beginning of a mandatory minicamp, but Titans players said they are focused on finishing strong.
The Titans have two more days of minicamp this week that will conclude their multi-phased offseason workout program that advanced in stages to the 10-hour days that include non-padded practices, meetings and film study and walk-through practices. Tennessee will then have a break away from Saint Thomas Sports Park before opening training camp late next month.
"Coach (Ken) Whisenhunt said in the team meeting that it's very vital that we go out there and understand we can't be looking toward the break, you can't be making those plans because we still have a lot of work to do," veteran receiver Nate Washington said. "I think a lot of guys understand this is still a week of work, so we want to continue to move forward and learn throughout this system and continue to do things required of us.
"The most important thing is finishing," he added. "We've worked all spring. We've worked relentlessly in the classroom, in the weight room and putting it all on the field. Now we have to make sure that we're closing it out and not looking forward to the break. When that break gets here, we'll take it, but we're not on break yet. We have to make sure that we understand that there's still two days of work left and we're doing everything required of us."
That approach was true for defensive players, safety George Wilson said.
"It's my job and a lot of veterans' jobs on this team to lead by example, make sure guys are focused on the tasks at-hand, not talking about next week or what's going to happen then, and just stay in the moment," said Wilson, who likened the minicamp to a midterm assessment after the 10 organized team activity practices that were spread over the previous three weeks.
"Now, it's kind of a review, a refresher of all the things we've installed, all the situations we've covered throughout the OTAs, and now it's more of a game-like situation: first, second, third down, get some red zone work," Wilson said. "We finished up practice with the two-minute period, so it's about trying to see the sense of urgency, trying to assess us as a team as well as individually to see what we've been able to retain, what we've been able to carry over from the meeting room to the walk-throughs to the practices we've had. I think it's somewhat like a midterm exam before we get a break and come back for training camp."
The intensity Tuesday continued to be high, with the competitive spirits within players sensing that this week is their last opportunity for head-to-head challenges for about five weeks.
"We were killing them all day," receiver Kendall Wright said. "We gave them a little leeway in the two-minute period when they got the best of us. You could see the looks on their faces when they weren't talking or anything. We bailed them out earlier and could have finished with a great day of practice as far as offensively and we didn't and just have to get better at finishing those aspects."
Cornerback Jason McCourty said players understand the importance of leaving coaches with a great impression and being ready to hit the ground running when training camp opens.
"We're out there all fighting for our livelihood, and when new coaches come in and a lot of changes go on, you've got to continue to show what you can do, so I think the intensity in practice is always going to be up and guys want to play," McCourty said. "We have a lot of competition going on, and the more you show what you can do, the more playing time you're going to get, so I love to watch that and be a part of that: guys going out and competing, trash talking and making one another better."
CRAM SESSION: While Wilson compared the minicamp to midterms with elongated preparations, receiver Derek Hagan, who signed with Tennessee Tuesday, said he underwent a cram session to best prepare for his first practice with the Titans. Hagan has played 83 games in seven NFL seasons and said that experience helped.
"That's the good thing about being a vet, I've been around so many offenses and playbooks that it's really easy to make that transition and I try to take it one day at a time," Hagan said. "Last night, it was sort of like a cram session, just trying to learn what we were doing today, but pretty much everything I was learning was on the fly. It was hard in a way but easy at the same time, because once I got out there and was able to run my route, it's like I've been there before and I just took it from there."
The Titans hit the field for their first day of a three-day minicamp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Donn Jones Photography.com)
WALK IT OUT:** Quarterback Jake Locker said the biggest difference between OTA practices and the minicamp is the addition of the walk-through practices. He said those sessions benefit the full-speed sessions.
"I think the walk-throughs are really helpful for everybody just because it allows you to get on the field, to see the things you're going to see in live action, but at a slower pace that allows you to really learn and grow," Locker said. "I think it's good for all of us. It allows us to tackle that mental aspect and understand that part of it so we can play fast in the morning practices."
ADVANCING BISHOP: Rookie running back Bishop Sankey, who agreed to terms with the Titans Tuesday, said this week will be a good opportunity for him to build on what he did late last week. Sankey missed most of Tennessee's offseason program because he had academic requirements with the University of Washington's quarter system but arrived in Nashville in time for practice last Thursday.
"I think the best way to learn it is doing it and getting the reps," Sankey said. "I'm just happy to be here and am thankful that I'm finally here for more than one day and able to get the plays down and rep it out. I knew a little more today than I did last week, and it's something that I'm continuing to do with each practice and rep."
Sankey said the run plays have come natural for him and he's honing in on the details of passing routes.
"Just paying attention to the details and how I can get better at doing those things, knowing where my landmarks are on certain routes," he said. "I think the little things are what are going to separate you at this level, and it's something I'm learning now."