NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans offensive and defensive players said they showed in Monday's practice how the stakes go up when the ball moves closer to the end zone.
Tennessee opened the third and final week of its organized team activity practices and has advanced through its progression of installation to situations like working in the red zone and executing the two-minute drill.
"The red zone and two-minute are critical things in the game, and when you get in the red zone, we want to score touchdowns," receiver Kendall Wright said. "We don't want to call the field goal unit out there."
Wright said players know how important those components of the game are, and even though it's in an unpadded practice, the intensity climbs higher.
"We want to win every time," he said. "It's at a high level when we go do two-minute and red zone because they don't want us to score on them, and we're trying to score on them every time. They win sometimes and we win sometimes, but the best thing about it is we're getting a lot of work done and competing at a high level."
Tight end Delanie Walker, who led the Titans with six TD catches in 2013, said the practices are allowing good prep work for training camp, which will open in late July.
"We're taking a lot of stuff and we're handling it very well. That's going to prepare us for training camp and coming into games. We won't be worried about it because we did it all year and will be prepared to do what it takes to get it in the end zone," Walker said. "You always want to take practice as if you're playing in the game, because then when you get in the game, it's nothing. It's slowed down for you, so when we get in that area, you feel anxious. You want to score touchdowns, you get excited and that's good that guys are doing that because when we get into the game it won't be a big deal."
The defense is unable to deliver hits to breakup passes, but Jason McCourty said defenders plan to strongly — and smartly — contest each play.
"We're competing. They're making plays and we're making plays, so that's a good thing," McCourty said. "You want to see back and forth, and those types of situations — red zone, third down, two-minute — are really going to test our knowledge of the game and being smart and able to make plays in crucial parts of the game, so it's fun to see both sides compete."
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who along with Coty Sensabaugh and Tommie Campbell, are in the mix for the other starting cornerback spot opposite McCourty, said the Titans have been "pounding the red zone."
"I've noticed that the last couple of days. We've been doing a lot of red-zone work because a lot of plays are made in there, and it's a lot quicker so you have to be on top of everything," Wreh-Wilson said. "Two-minute and move-the-ball situations as well, we've been on top of that because a lot of crazy things can happen with the timing, and we're just making sure we're on top of everything."
The Titans opened the third and final week of their organized team activity practices with an indoor session Monday. (Photos: Craig Peters)
RUN AT RUNNING BACK:** Shonn Greene is still recovering from offseason surgery, Dexter McCluster was sick Monday and rookie Bishop Sankey isn't scheduled to arrive in Nashville until Wednesday evening.
Sankey and free agent signee, kicker Travis Coons, have been completing school requirements at the University of Washington, but are expected to participate in Thursday's final OTA practice and next week's minicamp.
Whisenhunt was asked how much can be expected of Sankey on his first day back since a rookie minicamp in May.
"Would I like to think he's ready? Yes," Whisenhunt said. "Do I think he's ready? No, but hopefully he's been looking at the video and staying up with the scripts. I know he's talked to (running backs coach Sylvester) Croom a few times, so hopefully it will help him with the adjustment. He'll get some good reps here Thursday and hopefully with the minicamp."
Whisenhunt said training camp is the target return for Greene.
TAKE IT INDOORS: Rains that occurred over the weekend and Monday morning prompted Whisenhunt to have Monday's in the bubble on synthetic turf at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
"We had a lot of rain, especially this morning, so as much as I wanted to go out there, I just wasn't comfortable that it was good enough footing," Whisenhunt said.
The Titans have been splitting the squad onto two outdoor fields to increase the number of reps and were still able to do that in a tighter area in the bubble.
"That makes it a little bit more difficult, but sometimes we're going to have to figure out how to work in these confined spaces and we did that today. It's not always perfect, but we got good work in," Whisenhunt said. "I think the big thing with that is we're doing it. Some of it is dependent upon where we are healthwise, and with a 90-man roster, you can. The biggest benefit that I see from that is you're getting extra reps for guys, especially the quarterbacks. That's kind of what you think, and even young guys in the secondary, where you are normally having to split the reps, now they're getting more reps. It puts a little more stress on them physically, but that's OK. I think they understand the intensity and have been working through it."
Sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger said there's merit in physical and mental reps, but he appreciates the increased amount of action.
"Some guys need that physical rep, but some guys can watch it and understand and learn that way. Being a quarterback, you've really got to learn that way because you're not going to get all the reps," Mettenberger said. "Instead of all of us going on field and getting two reps, I'm now getting six reps and that's really important when you've got to work the communication and protections. Everyone knows I'm a pretty slow guy, so I've got to protect myself so I don't get hit."