NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** New Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is already well familiar with the "Titan Up" slogan.
Vrabel, introduced to season ticket holders during an event at Gaylord Opryland Hotel on Saturday night, said he wants the words to mean something to his players. He wants it to symbolize toughness, physicality, preparedness, and smarts.
"We're going to say Titan Up," Vrabel said. "We're going to embrace that, and what that is. And we are going to define that for our players, so that when we say it that we believe it. If you want to say "Titan Up," then you are going to be competitive, you are going to be tough, you are going to be conditioned and you are going to be disciplined.
"We're not going to break down and say "Titan Up" and jump offsides a bunch. We have to believe this is what we're going to be and this is who we are, and that's how we're going to have to practice. If we are going to say "Titan Up," then you better be a competitive SOB and you better be tough and you better be disciplined and you better be competitive."
Hired last month, Vrabel, general manager Jon Robinson, and others will head to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine this week. On Saturday night, Vrabel got a chance to make an impression on the team's season ticket members.
The decorated NFL linebacker who won three Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots and previously served as defensive coordinator with the Texans, was fired up. He shared his expectations for his players, and his coaching staff while speaking on stage with Titans director of broadcasting Mike Keith.
"I appreciate this, this is an amazing opportunity, I'm humbled by this opportunity," Vrabel told the crowd. "I'm going to give you everything I've got, and the guys that we've hired are going to give you everything that they've got and I know you're going to be proud of the players."
Vrabel said he's spent his first month on the job getting to know his players better, along with everyone inside the building at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
He rolled off the names Kevin Byard, Jurrell Casey, Brynden Trawick, Ben Jones, Taylor Lewan, Marcus Mariota, Logan Ryan, Adoree Jackson and Jack Conklin as players he's spent time with. He said he "can't wait 'til August" when the team begins playing preseason games, but he knows there's work to be done before then.
He talked about managing expectations, and building from Day One of the offseason program, which starts April 9.
"To be able to sit down and talk to our players and get to know them, get to know about their families, get to know about their charities, about what they do," Vrabel said. "We're not talking football. Because right now, that's not important.
"I believe and we believe as a coaching staff that that's the only way that you can coach them, is by getting to know them. They have to know how much you care about them. And not that you're going to cut them any slack, to be honest with you, but you're going to know how they work, how they tick, what makes them go, how I can push them."
"I've been all over the building," Vrabel continued. "I'm trying to get everything in order first in our building with our trainers, our equipment staff, our strength staff, our security staff, people that help us in the cafeteria and around our building. Our coaches will know everybody in that building that helps us win."
Vrabel said he's confident in his coaching staff, which includes veteran defensive coordinator Dean Pees and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.
"Passion and energy. I think that equals production. Passion, energy and some production," is what Vrabel said he wants from his staff. "Jon and I believe that we have to develop our players that we have to be able to take a player that's maybe good, and make him very good. We have to make a very good player elite. And we are going to try and do that. Our coaches know that they are to be great teachers, great developers and great motivators, and that's why they are there."
Vrabel made it clear he has high expectations for his players, from the quarterback to the last man on the 53-man roster.
He raved about some of his new pupils, but he knows there's plenty of work to do. It started with the day he was hired by controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.
"I think what is fair to expect from Marcus is the same thing we are going to expect from every player," Vrabel said when asked about Marcus Mariota. "When I sat with Amy and her family and Jon, it was my job and our coaches' job to make sure that every player knows what to do and so they can play fast and aggressive. If we get that done, I can almost assure you that the results will take care of itself. They have to know what to do, and that will be the job of the coaches, and the player will have to be able to play fast and aggressive.
"If you want to be a good coach, get players like Kevin Byard and Taylor Lewan. That's the secret to good coaching, get good players. That's the secret. Our guys will be great players, but they will be better teammates.
"I learned a long time ago that players are more important than plays, and that teammates are more important than players," Vrabel added. "Our guys will be great players, but they'll be better teammates. They will care about their teammates and the will do things that are best for the team."
Nearly 8,000 Titans season ticket members turned out for the team's annual ticket holders event at Gaylord Opryland Hotel. (Photos: Donn Jones, Gary Glenn)