NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans don't kick off the preseason until August, and then the regular season will be a month away.
But this week – the start of organized team activities – is a big one. It sets things in motion.
"This is the first time we can compete offense vs. defense really for the first time since last December,'' Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "It will be good for our team to have a little competition on the field.
"I am ready to go, and the players are, too. We can finally start competing. It's been a lot of work on air so far, and now we get together and see how it looks with us going against each other."
The Titans began their offseason program last month. It's when players returned to Saint Thomas Sports Park for the first time since the end of the 2016 season. Plenty of new faces, from free agents to draft picks, have joined the team since last year, which ended with a 9-7 mark.
In the first two weeks of Phase One of the offseason program, the team worked primarily on strength and conditioning. In three weeks of Phase Two, coaches were allowed to work with players and conduct drills, but there have been regulations. The drills were separated into offense and defense, and offensive players weren't allowed to face defensive players. Helmets could not be worn
Still, players say the mood has been good, and there's been progress.
"We're where we left off last year,'' defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said. "We've had a lot of guys come in and been helping us through free agency who've picked up the playbook really well. I see the energy from everybody when we're working out. This year's feel has been totally different from past years. We're going in the right direction with players who are coming in and want to make sure we win."
Center Ben Jones said the team is ready to turn things up a notch.
"Last year we started something we want to finish this year,'' he said. "We were really close to being in the playoffs and this year we want to get in. It starts right now, learning the offense better and working together as a team."
The Titans begin Phase Three today, with the first of 10 OTAs scheduled for Tuesday. The Titans will hold three OTAs this week, and three more the following week. The Titans will hold four OTAs from June 5-8.
Mularkey said he expects quarterback Marcus Mariota to take part in the OTAs in some fashion. Earlier this month, the head coach said the team plans to work on more 7-on-7 drills this offseason to help Mariota develop timing with his receivers.
"He'll do something in practice,'' Mularkey said of Mariota. "He'll be limited. He's been doing some work."
As a whole, Mularkey said the next several weeks are critical.
The Titans will conduct a three-day minicamp June 13-15, and training camp is scheduled for late July.
"I'm looking forward to the competition,'' Mularkey said "I want to see us getting off to a fast start. This is not all new like it was last year. I think we are much further along than we were, and I'd like to see us get out there and pick up where we left off."
Titans rookies hit the field for the start of a three-day rookie minicamp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Donn Jones Gary Glenn)