NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Thanksgiving was anything but a day off for the Titans as head coach Ken Whisenhunt used one of his three remaining padded practices.
"We don't have a lot of those left according to the CBA rules, but we felt like it was important this week," said Whisenhunt. "It's never easy when you play in a couple physical games like we've played in. Guys are banged up and we're limited in numbers with guys not practicing. The guys did a good job with it. It was a good, crisp practice in the pads."
Banged up is putting it mildly in regards to the team's weekly injury report. Taylor Lewan, Michael Oher, Kamerion Wimbley and Michael Griffin all didn't practice Thursday. Leon Washington, Dexter McCluster, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Marqueston Huff were all limited.
Add center Brian Schwenke to the absence of Lewan and Oher and the Titans could possibly be down three starting offensive linemen Sunday in Houston.
The fear of getting others injured in a high intensity practice needs to be balanced with the team's need to improve in the trenches.
Tennessee's offense has six straight games under 100 yards rushing and the defense has given up back-to-back monster games against Le'Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy. On Sunday they'll face Arian Foster, who rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns against the Titans in Week 8 at LP Field.
"It helps with gap fits, it helps with passing off stunts on the offensive side of the ball, and run game stuff. Hopefully we'll be better tacklers this week," said Whisenhunt.
Chance Warmack is one of two remaining starters on the offensive line that practiced on Thanksgiving along with fellow tackle Andy Levitre. Warmack wasn't thrilled about being in pads, but recognized everything that can be accomplished in a physical practice. He mentioned the ability to improve hand placement and pad level off of the snap as a few things the team worked on Thursday.
"We're not in control of when we are wearing pads, but when we are in pads we try to take full advantage of it," said Warmack.
Jason McCourty had a similar response when asked if he looked forward to padded practices.
"Of course not," McCourty said laughing half seriously. "It's cool though, for me I'm not hitting anyone in practice anyways. I think it's good for the guys up front in terms of pass protection and run blocking. We want to improve our run defense for sure and try to run the ball more effectively on offense. Having these padded practices will help us get in the right body position and get the right reads we'll see on Sunday.
"When you have them on, you can go make contact," McCourty continued. "You don't have to worry about injuring someone because you don't have pads on. It helps pick up the tempo in practice. As pros, guys get used to practicing without pads but putting them on adds a different element."
Whisenhunt did allow the team to take their pads off after an intense first hour of practice, something that wasn't taken for granted by McCourty.
"You don't always look forward to it, but you know how important it can be to your success," he said. "At this point in the season you're always going to have guys banged up, but this is the time when you have to push through it. Coach gave us a break by only making us wear pads for half of practice so you have to take that bone and make sure you get the work done that you need to get done."