Zaviar Gooden Ready for Opportunity at Linebacker

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Every team talks about it – the concept of next man up. It's about being ready when you're number is called.

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett talked about it at length yesterday during his conference call in regards to his team's gluttony of injuries on defense.

The concept holds true for the Titans.

When linebacker Zach Brown went down Sunday, it was the next man up who was expected to seamlessly fill the void. That man was second-year pro Zaviar Gooden, who will continue to fill the role going forward with Brown out for the season after tearing a pectoral muscle.

Gooden got off to a good start, recording four tackles, including one tackle for a loss, in Tennessee's dominant performance in Kansas City.

"Zaviar Gooden did a good job," head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday. "He went in there and filled in nicely. It's one of those situations where you don't know what to expect, but you've seen him grow through camp. It was nice to be able to see him perform on the field the way he did."

Gooden explained Wednesday that his preparation made him feel ready for the opportunity.

"I felt very comfortable," he said. "I was ready for everything they threw at me. I'm a pro, so I prepare like I'm a starter because I know I'm the next guy up. I put the work in during the week studying a lot of film. I knew the assignments and the game plan very well, so I went in there confident."

The Titans added speedy Missouri LB Zaviar Gooden with the final pick in the third round (97th overall) of the NFL Draft. (Photos: AP, Missouri)

Teammates describe Gooden as quiet and someone that keeps about his own business. The second-year linebacker out Missouri wouldn't have it any other way.

"I keep quiet and just work," Gooden humbly said. "If you do your job and do what you're supposed to do, then I believe you'll be fine. That's the type of guy I am."

The Titans selected Gooden in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft (97th overall). As a rookie, Gooden appeared in nine games with one start, making 13 total tackles.

Gooden's progression as a linebacker continued through training camp as he got plenty of work during the preseason. He played nearly all of the fourth exhibition contest against the Vikings and logged 10 total preseason tackles.

Gooden treats each rep as another opportunity to get better.

"You've got to be ready. If you're a backup you have to prepare like you're a starter," he said. "You never know what can happen and that showed itself on Sunday."

Gooden and the Titans' defense will be tested in Week 2 against the high-powered Dallas Cowboys offense, making this week of preparation even more important.

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"They've got tons of weapons. Demarco Murray is a great back. He's a physical guy and runs hard," said Gooden before running through the rest of the Cowboys offensive stars. "Dez Bryant is dominant. They've got a great offensive line. Tony Romo, when he gets hot, he's right up there with the best of them. We definitely have our hands full, but we're preparing and we'll have to bring our A-game Sunday."

Despite the weapons at Romo's disposal, Gooden says that nothing changes in terms of the game plan for the Titans' front seven.

"There's nothing we wouldn't have to do on any other quarterback," explained Gooden. "You want to get pressure on him and you want to hit him and rattle him a little bit because that affects every quarterback, not just Tony Romo."

It was clear that Gooden is eager for the chance at starting for the Titans, an opportunity he doesn't plan on relinquishing.

"It's a great opportunity," he said. "It's what I've been working for, so it's definitely a blessing. I hate that it came at the expense of another teammate, but that's just the nature of the game. It's something I've been looking forward to for a long time so I'm going to take advantage of it."

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