NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kendall Wright felt comfortable enough to joke with Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains before leaving the field after Tuesday's workout. Zach Brown has learned he has enough time for three or four small York peppermint patties in between the field and the weight room.
Defensive tackle Mike Martin said the difference from now and this time a year ago is "night and day," and cornerback Coty Sensabaugh agreed.
Tennessee's top four picks in the 2012 NFL Draftsaid there are multiple reasons they are less anxious and more excited about 2013 than last season. It's been a little more than a year since they were rookies trying to prove scouts and administrators right in terms of deserving a roster spot, but they said they are experiencing a completely different feeling.
The reality of the NFL is that each player must demonstrate his capabilities each year. Wright (selected 20th overall), Brown (52nd), Martin (82) and Sensabaugh (115th) know this. They also know that the Titans are at the preseason maximum of 90 players and must go to 53 before the season-opener at Pittsburgh on Sept. 8.
The players said they've benefitted first and foremost from game experience, but familiarity with most coaches and several teammates have helped.
"It's way easier and better to know everything I need to know and have an idea of everything that's going on," Wright said. "I was coming in here and not knowing anything, trying to get to know everybody in the locker room. So now, it's already come to me. I know everybody. I'm still listening to (veterans) Nate (Washington) and Damian (Williams) and Kenny (Britt). We all listen to each other and learn from each other."
The Titans slotted Wright at the "X" position in the offense when he first arrived, and he quickly demonstrated he could handle other positions. Wright tied for the NFL lead in receptions by a rookie with 64 catches, recording at least three grabs in 12 of 15 games played.
Brown said his comfort level increased as last season progressed. He started 13 of 16 games and recorded 93 tackles (70 solo) and 5.5 sacks. He also returned two of three interceptions he made for touchdowns in the season finale and recovered the fumble that sealed the Titans' win against the New York Jets.
"I'm a lot more comfortable. Now, it's just we've got to keep it going, got to keep up. You've got to keep producing," Brown said. "The league is a production league, and if you reach a time when you're not producing, you're out, so you've just got to keep doing what you've got to do. Keep in your playbook, and just keep getting better. You want to be like a coach on the field."
Showing his comfort level, Brown returned from the office of Titans equipment manager Paul "Hoss" Noska to his locker with a handful of candy.
"I go in and grab at least three or four a day to keep me going and give me a little energy before I go lift these weights," Brown said.
The players also have a better barometer on where they should be at this point of the year from a conditioning standpoint and have benefitted by using their time since the season ended to study their film and focus on details.
Martin said the year of experience has helped him approach the offseason program with less stress than a year ago.
"Just knowing the scheme and everything that has to go in your first year and everything you've got to learn. It's a big relief," Martin said. "Even with the changes, it's so much easier to absorb those and be able to adapt to those and not have any trouble with them when you have to execute on the field, already having the background."
Sensabaugh said he's focusing on footwork, technique and camaraderie with teammates — "just all the little things that will help make me a better player, which will then help make the team better as a whole" — during the offseason program as it progresses toward next month's mini-camp.
"A year makes a lot of difference, especially for me because I got a lot of work last year, so I feel like I got a lot of experience," Sensabaugh said. "Over the offseason I watched that film from last year and I'm just trying to see where I can improve at in every aspect of my game, so it's just working on what I feel are my weaknesses and trying to get better each day."
Martin, who never shies away from a workout, also said he's fine-tuning fundamentals and refining his technique during this time.
"It's a big time to focus on technique and get your fundamentals down and once you hit camp and OTAs, that will be second nature at that time," Martin said. "You don't want to be dealing with technique things. You want to be able to focus on the defense and getting better and executing those things the best you can."