Trip To Super Bowl City Provides Extra Motivation for a Pair of Titans Defenders


MIAMI BEACH – A pair of Titans were in the middle of the frenzy at Super Bowl LIV Radio Row on Friday, and it whet their appetite for more.

Titans safety Kevin Byard and linebacker Rashaan Evans crossed paths here at the Miami Beach Convention Center two days before the big game, one they were one win away from playing in.

"Honestly, when me and my wife were on the way to the hotel when we got down here," said Byard, "I was just thinking, 'Man, we were supposed to be here playing in this game.'

"It's one of those deals where the first couple of days of the offseason were pretty rough, trying to decompress and trying to reflect on all the great things we accomplished this year. … But the amount of momentum we were able to build this season, getting all the way to the AFC Championship Game, beating teams that nobody thought we would beat. ... I think it will give us great motivation and a great chip on our shoulders to come into next year and work even hard and try and make it to the Super Bowl."

After clinching a playoff spot with a win at Houston in Week 17, the Titans beat the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the Wild Card round before knocking off the AFC's top-seeded Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round.

The team's season ended with a loss at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.

On Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, the Chiefs and 49ers will play in Super Bowl LIV.

"We were expecting to be in this position (to play)," Evans said. "I feel excited for the future, because I definitely feel like we know what it feels like to be in a playoff game. At the same time, it is a blessing in disguise – you lose the way (we lost), and it gives you even more hunger and understanding that opportunities like that don't come that often. The next time you get it, you have to make sure you seize it."

Already, Evans, is talking as if he plans to be in Tampa for next year's Super Bowl.

"You have to speak it into existence," Evans said, smiling. "I am like, 'Look, we'll be in this game next year."

The Titans have some work to do this offseason, of course.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry are among the players on offense scheduled to become free agents in March.

On defense, the Titans will have a new play caller following the retirement of defensive coordinator Dean Pees. On Thursday, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, said he's hired Anthony Midget as the team's new secondary coach, and he'll replace Kerry Coombs.

Vrabel said he's "still working through some things" when asked about the opening at inside linebackers on his coaching staff. As for the defensive coordinator spot, Vrabel said "whoever calls the defense, we are going to do pretty much what we have done."

"Hopefully this offseason, (GM) Jon Robinson and Vrabel will be able to finish the coaching staff, and (we'll) be able to retain a lot of our guys, of course, and bring in a couple of more pieces so we can make a run at this thing," Byard said.

"I think the greatest thing about it is being able to do the same things we've done, because I think we have done it well. Even if Vrabel ends up calling the defense, or whatever, I think it would be great because him and Dean Pees have the same kind of mindset as far as play calling and things they like to run. I am pretty sure he'll add some other things and do some things a little different to put his spin on it, but I think it will be great honestly."

A look back at safety Kevin Byard's 2019 season that saw him lead the team for the third consecutive season and tie for fourth in the NFL with five interceptions. (Photos: Donald Page)

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