NASHVILLE – Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen is a hands-on coach who likes to get down and dirty while teaching his players.
Just like his head coach, Bowen puts on arm pads or a chest pad in certain drills in practice. He's been knocked to the ground at least once.
During the coronavirus pandemic, he plans to continue being an effective teacher, using a mental and physical coaching approach. But he also knows there's a chance things might be a little different in camp this year.
"We'll have to see how this thing goes," Bowen said. "I mean, I'm sure I'll have a mask on at practice if I have to have a mask on at practice. Ultimately, it's about the players – whatever they feel safe with. Ideally, I want to be able to coach how I've done in the past, but at the same time, if they're not comfortable with that then I'll have to adjust and go from there. The last thing I want them to have to worry about is all that stuff. I'm worrying about them putting their hands in the right spot."
Bowen, hired by the Titans in 2018, will have something else in common with Mike Vrabel moving forward. The Titans head coach has increased Bowen's responsibility, turning him into his right-hand man on the defensive side of the ball.
Vrabel has said numerous times this offseason the plan is for Bowen to be the voice of the defense when he's working in other areas.
"When I'm not in front of the defense, Shane Bowen will be that voice," Vrabel said last week. "When I'm not in the defensive meeting room with the coaches, that will be Shane running it."
It's a task Bowen, 33, is happy to take on.
"Ultimately, my job, first and foremost, is to get these outside linebackers to play at a high level and to continue to develop them to make sure they're doing what they're supposed to do and contributing the way they're supposed to on defense," Bowen said. "But Mike isn't always going to be around, so they need somebody to help him out, and I've been with him a long time. One thing I will say, I think I'm an extension of him when it comes to our defense and what he expects and what he wants. I think that's where it has competence, and comfort level comes with me just because we've been around each other for a while now. So, I think that's kind of where it stems from but ultimately, for me, it's about these outside linebackers first. Myself, Matt Edwards (special teams assistant) helps out with the inside and outside backers, making sure they're playing at a high level, and then doing what I can to echo and reiterate some of the messages of what Vrabes wants done defensively as a unit."
Bowen twice worked with Vrabel in the past before being hired by him in 2018. The two worked on the same staff for two years (2016-17) with the Houston Texans, when Bowen worked as a defensive assistant and Vrabel served as linebacker coach and later defensive coordinator. Prior to that, Bowen and Vrabel were on the same staff at Ohio State.
With the Titans, Bowen has helped develop outside linebacker Harold Landry, who led the team in sacks in 2019, and Kamaei Correa, who closed the 2019 season strong, among others.
Bowen said he's willing to do whatever Vrabel asks of him following the retirement of defensive coordinator Dean Pees back in January. What that means for a play-calling duties and other assignments, well, that remains to be seen, Bowen said.
"Again, ultimately, I'm an extension of Mike when he isn't around," Bowen said. "When Mike (Vrabel)'s not around, just so we can function and get through what we have to get through, somebody's got to take the role in terms of organizing a meeting and making sure we're checking all the boxes off, and being prepared for practice, for the season, everything that comes with that.
"I think I said in the spring, we've got a great defensive staff. We all lean on each other with all that. Has (Jim Haslett) has done it, he's been a head coach and then defensive coordinator. I'm very familiar with (Anthony) Midget and Book (Scott Booker), and I've been around all these guys – for the most part other than Has (Jim Haslett), I've been around these guys at some point in my career. So, I think as a group, we're doing a good job in terms of collaborating as we work through some of this stuff. But when push comes to shove and we got to kind of move on to the next task, I'm going to push it that way."