NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Justin Hunter probably didn't need to be told the importance of the weeks leading up to training camp, but he got a reminder from his position coach.
Now is not the time to slack off, Bob Bratkowski told Hunter, and the rest of the team's receivers.
"He made an emphasis that we should come back and pass that conditioning test. And if you don't, then you don't deserve to be here,'' Hunter said. "So my work continues. You can't sit back home and chill too long."
Hunter, heading into his fourth season with the Titans, was delivered a more specific message in a one-on-one meeting with his head coach just a few weeks earlier.
"I'm asking him to step up and be more aggressive about it – to look at the guy across from him and tell him, 'You can't cover me.' He just needs more confidence in his body language and everything about him," coach Mike Mularkey told Hunter. "He's got such talent. I think he's got to believe he's got the talent.
"I want him to be successful. I'm on his side. What's it going take to get you to play at the level we want you to play at?"
Hunter heard it loud and clear.
And as he headed off for the long break before training camp, Hunter left fully aware he needs to return ready to go.
His future is at stake.
"There's another level,'' Hunter said. "I am definitely going to have to bring it in training camp. There's a lot of competition, a lot of people fighting for positions and things like that. You can't slack off because another guy is coming for your spot. I have to keep grinding."
Hunter, who has caught 68 passes for 1,116 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons, is heading into the final year of his contract.
In training camp, he'll be battling for playing time – and possibly survival -- at a position with plenty of competition.
Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham and Harry Douglas return from last year, along with youngsters Tre McBride and Andrew Turzilli. The Titans signed veteran Rishard Matthews this offseason, and drafted Tajae Sharpe, who has been one of the team's offseason stars.
"You love the fight he has, and that is going to push everybody else,'' Hunter said of Sharpe. "There's a lot of competition, you have to keep fighting."
Hunter said he cleared a mental hurdle earlier this offseason in his recovery from the fractured right ankle he suffered against the Panthers back on November 15, which required season-ending. Hunter's 2014 season was cut short after he suffered a lacerated spleen against the Texans in late November.
Hunter, who has played in 35 games in his three-year NFL career, caught 22 passes for 264 yards a year ago after a career-best 28 catches for 498 yards and three touchdowns in 2014.
Hunter said Mularkey has been fair with him. Now, he has to prove himself worthy.
"Everything he has said to me is true. He has treated me like he wants me here and I take heed into what he is saying and try to do what he says,'' Hunter said. "Coach Mularkey has taken on that role where he is not going to let me slack at all.
"… I love the game, and I love the excitement. I am going to keep grinding."