NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans returned from their bye week Monday with heavy hearts, rested bodies and focused minds for a practice session that ended a little bit before the memorial service for team owner and founder K.S. "Bud" Adams, Jr. was held in Houston.
Players who have been in the two-tone blue uniforms for several years said they enjoyed the enthusiasm Adams showed in the locker room after wins, while newer additions to the team said they understood the impact Adams had in his 54 years of guiding the franchise he founded as the Houston Oilers and moved to Tennessee in 1997.
The Oilers name was retired by the NFL in 1998 (a first in league history), and the Titans emerged in 1999 with a new stadium that is now called LP Field. That year included a perfect 8-0 mark at home, a victory in the AFC Championship and trip to Super Bowl XXXIV.
|Nate Washington joins Titans/Oilers founder and owner K.S. "Bud" Adams, Jr. before a game in 2009. Adams passed away Oct. 21, 2013. Click here for a slideshow of the Adams-led transition to the Titans.|
"Anytime a guy gives you an opportunity to make something of yourself, it's definitely unfortunate when he leaves," receiver Nate Washington said. "Bud Adams gave every guy in this locker room an opportunity to go feed their families, go make something of themselves and leave a mark in history, basically, so a lot of guys are very happy for the opportunity that he's given us. It's very unfortunate that he's left us, but this is something that we have to put on our shoulders to go back and repay this man for the great opportunity he's given us."
Titans coach Mike Munchak, who continuously worked for Adams in some capacity since 1982, and general manager Ruston Webster attended the memorial service, but Tennessee continued its planned practice where coaches and players applied lessons learned during a self-scouting period enabled by the week off.
The Titans (3-4) will try to end a three-game losing streak during a visit to St. Louis Sunday to play the Rams. Tennessee's past three opponents were 18-3 through the first seven weeks of the season, and it's upcoming three were 8-13 in that same span.
Cornerback and two-time captain Jason McCourty said players brought a professional approach to Monday's practice.
"Guys know what we need to get done so we knew exactly what the plan was before practice," McCourty said. "I think we did a good job of going out here and getting it done with this extra day we have to game plan. We all understand what's going on and why Coach Munchak wasn't here. It's up to us to continue to be professionals and go out here in his absence and do the right thing."
|Titans coach Mike Munchak, who began working for Bud Adams when he was drafted by the Oilers in 1982, delivered a eulogy and wore a special Oilers tie that belonged to Adams. Click here for a slideshow of Adams during the Oilers years.|
Receiver Damian Williams said Munchak's experience as a first-round pick, decorated player, position coach and head coach equipped him to represent those in the organization who remained behind to practice.
"That's always tough when you lose somebody, especially somebody like Mr. Adams, who is basically responsible for all of us being here. That's something that's rough," Williams said. "Munch' went to represent all of us, and I think that's a great gesture, just knowing he was a very special part of this organization, a very special part of this team. It's almost like, 'Go win it for Bud now.' If you couldn't find any other motivation, there's more motivation."
Adams peacefully passed away the previous Monday, when a team photo was originally scheduled. Coaches postponed the picture and reworked that day's events before players left the facility with the option of some travel time. Players with injuries used the break to rest, recover and rehab at the team facility most of last week as they continued to think about Adams' family.
"It's one of those tough situations because when we get the news, we were supposed to take team pictures and it just changed the feel of the whole locker room instantly," said safety Michael Griffin, who has played in every game since he was drafted by the Titans in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. "He was a great guy when he came in the locker room, always happy, but at the same time, our coaching staff, it hit everybody a little different. The guys that have been here for a while, the memories we have are great. I think everybody remembers the Buffalo game (in 2009)."
Adams led Tennessee's strong foray into free agency this offseason, committing millions to bring in experienced veterans to blend with younger players.
Tight end Delanie Walker was one such free agent, who said the team wants to do well to honor Adams' commitment this week and beyond.
"We all want to win for him," Walker said. "We talked about it after practice. We've got to get this one for him, and we know he's going to be up there watching over us and pushing us a little more."
Griffin said he is praying for Adams' family, and players old and young want the team to reach a high level of success.
"You realize he spent the money this offseason to get the players in here to make this team better," Griffin said. "We've got the team to do it, now hopefully, this bye week gave everybody a chance to look at things from a different perspective and get out whatever they needed to get out and come back ready to play these last nine weeks."
McCourty said Adams' impact was "awesome, not only for this organization but for the NFL in general."
"I've gotten an opportunity to see him come in the locker room and how excited he was," McCourty said. "I was here when we beat Buffalo in that home game, and you just saw the joy he got from watching this team play and watching us win games. It definitely hurt to see him pass away but just to know that he was one of the pioneers in starting the AFL-NFL merger and the things like that. He was a special guy."