NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** The waiting is almost over.
The grind, well, it's about to start.
The Titans report for training camp on Friday, and the team is scheduled to practice for the first time on Saturday.
Life as players have known it over the past six weeks will change dramatically.
"You look forward to it, but at the same time you also understand the grind of camp,'' safety Rashad Johnson said. "You get away from your normal activities … and you are in confinement with your teammates. But I love it. That's where the good teams are made. You get an opportunity to bond, to spend all day with each other and that is where the growth is made to determine how far we are going to go this season.
"It's not something you can't look forward to. It's part of the job, and it's what is going to make us be the Titans this season. We have to approach it that way."
The Titans wrapped up their offseason program in mid-June, when players began training on their own. Some elected to stick around Saint Thomas Sports Park. Others remained in town, but worked out at different locations. Players took vacations, and spent time with family members.
But by midweek, the building was buzzing again. Nine players took part in the season ticket delivery to fans earlier in the week, when they talked about their excitement for the start of camp.
"We're ready to roll,'' center Ben Jones said. "I look forward to it, getting to be around the guys and getting to know your teammates. We do our job whether you have on hats, helmets or anything. But when you put on the shoulder pads (like we're getting ready to do), the intensity increases and that's what we look forward to as an offensive lineman – being physical and having that dominant presence because that takes toll on a team throughout the season, throughout games. And if we can impose our will, that's what we want to do."
Titans rookie Kevin Byard spent part of his break training on the MTSU campus. He also traveled to Houston to train with fellow safety Da'Norris Searcy. A third-round draft pick in the NFL Draft, Byard is anxiously awaiting his first NFL training camp.
"Everybody is going to have butterflies going into camp, because there's a lot of unknown,'' Byard said. "So I'll definitely have butterflies. But I am never nervous, because I feel like I am prepared."
Johnson, who joined the Titans after playing previous seven seasons with the Cardinals, said he's looking to start a new chapter with a new team.
He senses something special in Tennessee.
"The most important thing when camp starts is you have to get better each and every day,'' Johnson said. "I am not saying we show up and be the '85 Bears one day, and then be a little bit better. I am just saying – be a little bit better each day. There will be days where we are going to take a (beating) from the offense, and we're going to be able to give it to them as well. But each and every day we have to compete and we have to get better each day.
"I think there is a great opportunity to get better this season. This division is a division that's up for grabs. Nobody has owned it every year… Last year it was up for grabs and this year is going to be the same. I think it's going to be the team that comes out and wins their games at home. I think we're in a position to do that and that should be the mindset of everyone in this locker room."