NASHVILLE, Tenn. --** Bernard Pollard mentioned it last week. Everyone who stepped to the podium on Friday affirmed it. No one in the Titans locker room has any intentions of going through a rebuilding process in 2014.
Despite where they rank in the minds of national critics, Titans players have their own set of expectations heading into training camp.
Tennessee's 7-9 record from a season ago left the team with a bad taste in its mouth -- not because of the losing record -- but because of the missed opportunities that cost the franchise its first trip to the playoffs since 2008.
"We're close," said quarterback Jake Locker as he gears up for his fourth NFL training camp. "You look at last season and I said it I don't know how many times, but we had four games where we were winning in the fourth quarter. If you win two of those games you're 9-7."
Two of those games were against the division rival Indianapolis Colts. The Titans had second half leads in both contests but failed to come away with the 'W' on either occasion.
"We win those football games then we win our division and we're hosting a playoff game," Locker continued. "That's how close this league is. We need to find a way to finish those games that we let get away from us. The team's that are making it into the playoffs aren't always blowing teams out; they're finding ways to win games at the end."
Veteran receiver Nate Washington is more than ready to return to the postseason as he enters his 10th NFL season and his sixth with the Titans.
"To be here going on six years and not been to the playoffs is a chip on your shoulder," said Washington. "It becomes a bigger chip when you hear a lot of the things that are being said going into this year."
Many NFL pundits around the nation would disagree with the Titans sentiments during Friday's media session, suggesting that franchise is still a long ways off. The Titans rank no higher than 25th in any of the power rankings for ESPN, CBS, and NFL.com. The USA Today predicts the team will go 6-10. A lot of that is noise that the players tune out, but it does add some fuel to the motivational fire.
"When the expectations are that low it gives you the opportunity to get out and prove everybody wrong," Washington said. "A lot of the guys in this locker room are focused on us going out and showing each other something more than going out and proving the critics wrong."
Washington is one of many Titans that know what it takes to get to the Super Bowl. He won a title early in his career with the Steelers. Bernard Pollard has a ring from his days as a Raven. Newly acquired linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Shaun Phillips made it to the big game just last season with the Denver Broncos. All of them share the same sentiments – the Titans are ready to win now.
"We're going to work hard. I'm not an 'I' guy or a 'me' guy but I came here to help win," said Woodyard who signed with the Titans after spending his first six NFL seasons in Denver. "As soon as I signed here I wanted to get to the playoffs and back to the Super Bowl. That's what it's about."
Veteran cornerback Jason McCourty is yet to play in a playoff game during his five year NFL career.
"That continues to fuel me," said McCourty. "You don't put in that much work in the offseason and dedicate this much time to football to lose. Each year its new motivation and I want to win. You're not going to be satisfied until you're holding the Super Bowl trophy."
The belief and energy is alive as the Titans prepare for their first practice Saturday morning. Now comes the grind and the hard work to make their goals become reality.
"For us here, we believe that we're going to be a playoff team this year and that's what we're working to do," McCourty said. "We know we have a lot of room for improvement and it's up to us these weeks of camp to improve and come together as a team."