NASHVILLE, Tenn. -The NFL lockout has left all players on all teams on their own. The Tennessee Titans face some added challenges.
Up to 15 Titans regularly gather for sprints and exercise on a high school field, and Vanderbilt University has opened its weight room to them as well. The rest of the roster is scattered around the country, with players choosing to stay close to their offseason homes.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan is getting antsy to test himself in real drills against a receiver, something he hasn't been able to do during this lockout. It doesn't help that he sees the Titans as being messed up by coaching changes and an uncertain quarterback situation.
"It's a tough place to be,'' Finnegan said.
Linebacker Gerald McRath calls it limbo.
"Nobody knows. I don't know. Cortland doesn't know. Ken Amato doesn't know. You've got the guys that have been here for a while, right now we're just in limbo stage,'' McRath said.
The Titans aren't the only team that changed head coaches at the end of last season, but Mike Munchak was the last coach hired in a move that didn't come until February when longtime incumbent Jeff Fisher left.
Quarterbacks such as Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning can gather teammates together with a quick call. But Vince Young is on Tennessee's roster only until the lockout ends and team officials find out if anyone wants to trade for him before he's released. Rusty Smith has joined Finnegan in workouts at Father Ryan High School, but he was a rookie last year.
Jake Locker is expected to compete early to be Tennessee's new starting quarterback, but the first-round draftee won't receive a penny from the Titans until he signs his contract after the lockout ends.
Finnegan is trying to remedy Tennessee's own stalemate by scheduling the players' first real minicamp in June. The cornerback has been in contact with Locker and expects him to attend June 8-9 if he can gather enough teammates together. He's putting the word out via email to see if they'll come back to Nashville.
"That's our hope,'' Finnegan said.
Running back Chris Johnson, the Titans' top star, has been working out on his own mostly in Florida, just as he did the previous two offseasons. Right guard Jake Scott, their player representative, has stayed in Nashville and is among those lifting weights regularly at Vanderbilt.
Finnegan and safety Chris Hope helped start the workout sessions at the high school in March, but nobody has been able to pull together a majority of players for much beyond conditioning work. Compare that to Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who helped pay the training costs for 33 of his teammates to join him in Georgia this week.
"See, Richard Seymour got $22 million in Oakland,'' Finnegan said with a laugh. "(Finnegan) doesn't have cash like that. If I had it, we'd talk about it. If I was Drew Brees, maybe we'd get it done. But not anytime in this lifetime.''
Finnegan knows it would be tough for the offensive and defensive linemen to work against each other. He's hoping for at least a skeleton version of 7-on-7s and the chance to go against a receiver.
"Honestly, players just want to gauge where other players are at. Guys are making big statements about them getting it in, working and wanting to win Super Bowls, but (then) sitting at home. We want to make sure everyone's working. They say they are, they are. We also just want to come together as a team,'' Finnegan said.
Cornerback Jason McCourty and McRath joined Finnegan, defensive end Dave Ball and Smith in a workout Thursday.
McCourty spent April in Nashville before spending a couple weeks in early May back home. McCourty also has tried hot yoga and hot boxing sessions to improve his conditioning. McCourty said he often goes to lunch with Finnegan and Hope after a session.
"It's not the whole team, but it's a core of us that are building relationships, so you know that's key to chemistry of the team and moving forward when the season finally starts,'' McCourty said.
McRath said this isn't easy for players still chafing at a 6-10 record after a 5-2 start in 2010. Having more players on hand will increase the intensity of these workouts, and McRath said that's what will help each person improve.
"Maybe it can be a small stepping stone that can put us ahead of some other teams that aren't able to meet. I'm very aware there are other teams having full practices right now. They have the advantage. It's up to us as the players to continue to push this thing forward,'' McRath said.
"I know we're in a lockout. At the same time, we've got to take a responsibility as a team that we stay together.''