NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Mike Mularkey's opportunity to catch up on sleep was an eye-opening experience.
Mularkey. recently hired as Tennessee's tight ends coach, said he's happy to return to the NFL and coaching. He is recharged and ready to work, appreciative of the increased family time he gained by taking the past season off after being the head coach of the Jaguars 2012.
"I missed it the whole time, but there were some things I didn't miss," Mularkey said. "I didn't really realize how long the days were that my wife was alone until I was actually with her for those days. I didn't realize how much sleep I lacked until I actually got some sleep and wondered how I functioned on the three hours of sleep I've been working on for the last 20 years, so it was eye-opening to have some time off. I think it's probably going to help me for future years of coaching."
Mularkey, who played "his favorite position" nine seasons in the NFL, won't be the only Titans coach with experience at that position. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt also played tight end in the league for nine seasons, offensive coordinator Jason Michael coached tight ends for the Chargers the past three seasons and coached the position at the University of Tennessee in 2008 and with the New York Giants in 2007.
Whisenhunt said hiring assistants with so much experience with tight ends wasn't deliberate.
"I think it's more about good football coaches. (Titans President and CEO) Tommy Smith has been great about supporting trying to get good football coaches," Whisenhunt said. "It's been great working with (general manager) Ruston (Webster) and going through all this. He's been great as far as input, suggestions and talking about coaches, so it's made the process very easy, as much as you can say easy because we had to work to get some of the coaches, just with trying to get permission from some of the teams, but in the end you feel very good about it."
Mularkey and Michael both said they believe the position has increased its importance for offenses.
"I've always thought, being a former player, that it's a pretty critical position because of the role that you play in the run game and the passing game," Mularkey said. "I think a lot of people have always, even when I played or was a tight ends coach, you were kind of tugged between the o-line and wide receivers and weren't given much priority. It's changed, especially with these great tight ends that have been out and me being with Tony Gonzalez the last time I was really with one of the great ones (as Falcons offensive coordinator). It's important that somebody at that position knows what they're doing and can prepare these guys in the right way."
Michael said the position is so important because it affects run blocking and pass protection, as well as offering a passing target.
"I think the tight end position has grown so much. When you've coached that position and played that position, I think you have a good understanding of the big picture, that we're trying to get everybody on the same page with because you have facets or all parts of the game," Michael said. "I think the more you can get from that position, (the better off you are)."
Coaches have been watching game film as a group and as individuals to evaluate players but won't be able to meet or work on the field with players until April.
Delanie Walker, who led Titans tight ends with 60 catches and all players with six TD catches in his first season in Tennessee, said last week on Radio Row at Super Bowl XLVIII that he's looking forward to learning more about what Titans coaches have in mind.
"I'm excited. I feel like our offense is going to be inside out now," Walker said. "They'll probably look to get me the ball more and use my talent. I've got the speed that I can run vertical and when I get the ball in my hands I can make plays, so I'm excited to see what they bring to the table."