The Titans began OTAs on Monday, with Tuesday being the first practice that was open to reporters. Among those making their Titans practice debuts were wide receiver Nate Washington, defensive tackle Jovan Haye and quarterback Patrick Ramsey.
Head coach Jeff Fisher said player attendance has been excellent throughout the team's off-season program that began last month. Players have been working hard, already setting their sites on the 2009 season.
"This is our second session and overall I'm pleased," Fisher said. "The condition level is good -- the strength, the quickness, the speed. The commitment is all there. The way that our game is now, May and June are so important. We are right where we should be."
When asked what it was like going through practice without former Titan Albert Haynesworth, Fisher chose to focus on the new players on the roster.
"We had 18 or 19 new faces last weekend which we got excited about and I know they are going to be excited about it," he said. "It's good to see the guys that we signed during the offseason come out and already have a good feel of the offense like Nate [Washington] running routes and doing the things we expected him to do."
Fisher said the team will continue to have a solid rotation on the defensive line, despite the loss of Haynesworth.
"We are going to continue doing the same things that we have done," he said. "We played a lot of games and won a lot of games without Albert and we didn't change anything then. We will have a good solid rotation and depth and we will continue to put pressure on the quarterback and stop the run."
CHRISTMAS FOR COLLINS: Kerry Collins is excited about the team's recent additions at wide receiver, saying the acquisitions of Nate Washington and Kenny Britt should help a passing game that needed improvement.
"Obviously, Nate is a veteran guy who is just coming into his own and has a chance to make a real big impact right away," Collins said. "Getting Kenny Britt with our first pick in the draft shows that we're willing to do what it takes to bring guys in here to improve the passing game."
The veteran quarterback is approaching this off-season differently after being designated the starter and signing a new two-year contract in March.
"Obviously, knowing that I'm going to be the starter definitely changes my approach to the off-season. I'm working with the first team and we can take things we worked on last year and build on it throughout the off-season," he said. "Everybody is excited about getting back to work. Everyone is working hard and I'm looking forward to my role this off-season."
LEARNING THE SYSTEM: Washington said he is transitioning to a new offense that allows inside and outside releases for Titans receivers. "It's kind of tough coming from a system I was coming from to a totally different system, but I'm adjusting. They're taking their time with me and I'm getting a feel for it," he said.
Instead of being locked into routes, Washington said Tennessee's offense focuses more on receivers getting open. "They (coaches) realize that at the end of the day, the most important thing is catching the ball and moving the chains. That's the most important thing that I've been learning so far."
DEFENDING HIS TURF: Second-year receiver Lavelle Hawkins said he wasn't worried when the Titans selected a wide receiver with their top draft pick last month. "Not at all. This is our job. He has to come in and compete just like I have to. Of course, it stays in the back of your mind that they took a receiver that high, but you just have to compete and may the best man win."
Hawkins said he has a much better understanding of Tennessee's offense now than he did a year ago entering his rookie season.
"I feel a whole lot better. Once I hear a play, I know what I'm doing. I can read the defense and I'm good," he said. "I'm real excited. I just have to show them that I know what I'm doing and stay confident in everything that I do."
TOP THAT: Despite rushing for 1,228 yards, scoring 10 touchdowns and making it to the Pro Bowl, Chris Johnson feels he can do even better in his second NFL season.
"Basically, this year I would like to set my goals high. I want to be the NFL MVP and lead the whole league in rushing this year," he said.
Johnson said the addition of Washington and Britt should help free things up for Titans running backs in 2009.
"It's going to be great because teams can't come in here and put eight or nine men in the box," he said. "They know we can beat you through the air with Kerry back throwing the ball and Nate Washington and some other guys that we picked up will help prevent that."
A ROOKIE AGAIN: Running back Rafael Little is hoping to make an impression after missing his entire rookie season with a torn ACL suffered his senior year at Kentucky.
"Basically, I just want to come out here and show my talent," said Little, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008. "That's why they kept me around, because they know what I can do."
Little has competition with Quinton Ganther, Chris Henry and fifth-round pick Javon Ringer in the mix.
"It was kind of tough last year because I've never sat around and watched anything. I know at this level it's going to be a little tougher, but I just want to be out there to show what I can do," he said.
NOT BACKING DOWN: Fourth-year running back LenDale White welcomes competition. He made that clear to reporters on Wednesday, emphasizing he wasn't intimidated by draft day trade rumors or by Tennessee drafting another running back.
"I will never run from competition. I never have and I never will," White said. "You can ask Reggie Bush, you can ask Chris Johnson. You can get anyone in America – I will never run from competition. I don't care who it is."
White, who is entering the final year of his contract, appeared more muscular and in better shape than at any point in his previous NFL off-seasons.
"I can't say I'm doing this for the money. That's a perk that comes with it. I wouldn't tell you I wouldn't take a $40 million bonus. I'm not going to say that. But I'm telling you I'm doing this because I want to be great…I want to be a Super Bowl champion. It's not about all the money and things like that."
NO ALBERT, NO PROBLEM: Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch isn't buying into media reports saying the Titans might be less effective without the services of Albert Haynesworth. He said players like second-year pro Jason Jones are stepping up and getting more opportunities to showcase their skills.
"It's giving these young guys an opportunity to get better so we can see kind of where they're going to fit into this defense," Vanden Bosch said. "Even last year the guys that filled in when Albert wasn't on the field played really well. Those guys, in my opinion, have shown progress this off-season and demonstrated that when they get in, they're not just going to be replacement guys filling in, but guys that can make plays."