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VOL. 37 | NO. 31 | Friday, August 02, 2013

It's up to Titans to regain respect, excitement of glory days

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When a team hasn’t won a playoff game in nearly a decade and hasn’t been to the postseason in five years, it’s easy to slip off the radar.

Nationally, and even locally to a certain extent, that has happened to the Tennessee Titans.

As the Titans opened training camp, it was telling that the national media were nowhere to be found. In fact, it took three days for any national scribe to show up at the newly rechristened St. Thomas Sports Park, aka the Titans practice facility.

Granted, the Titans are a small-market team to begin with and won’t necessarily generate the same media attention as the Cowboys, Patriots or Steelers on their best day.

But even in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, more and more fans appear to be in “show me” mode when it comes to the Titans.

For the first time since the Titans made their big splash here 15 years ago with an improbable run to the Super Bowl, none of the team’s home games sold out on the first day that single-game tickets were made available to fans.

Coming off a 6-10 season, credit the Titans front office with trying to regenerate some excitement and enthusiasm around this team. Tennessee signed no less than 17 free agents in the off-season and drafted top prospects Chance Warmack and Justin Hunter to try and bolster a sagging roster that, at times, simply was not competitive a year ago.

Yes, owner Bud Adams’ threat to clean house might have given the front office an increased sense of urgency. Whatever the reason, the Titans seem to be making an attempt to reclaim some of the excitement that has been missing from this team for the last several years.

The Titans know they have to earn their way back into people’s consciousness, both locally and nationally.

Tennessee Titans safety Bernard Pollard, talking with senior assistant coach for defense Gregg Williams, brings a new attitute and a fresh Super Bowl ring to a Titans defense in dire need of a spark.

-- Ap Photo/Mark Humphrey

Take outspoken safety Bernard Pollard, who comes to Tennessee by way of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Pollard knew what to expect when he signed with Tennessee – a team and even a fan base that needs an attitude adjustment.

“As far as what happened in the past, it’s the past. What I know is teams don’t respect the Tennessee Titans, fans don’t respect the Tennessee Titans, so we’ve got to go out there and take it,” Pollard says, adding it starts with physical play on defense.

“We’ve got to go out there and knock the piss out of somebody and we’ve got to go out there and dominate. We’ve got to steal games. We’ve got to win at home and we’ve got to show this city that we mean what we say,” he adds.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray agrees winning back the fans is part of that attitude change.

“As a defense, you owe it to the fans to be good. And when the fans are loud, that means you’ve got a great defense, and that’s what we’ve got to get back to,” Gray says. “The first couple of years here, we were kind of spoiled. Other teams would come in here and couldn’t go on a snap count because of the fans. Guess what? We were good on defense, too.”

And so it appears the mission in the Titans camp this year is to rebuild the buzz by recreating prior success.

Chris Johnson, who craves the spotlight perhaps more than any other Titan, says the absence of attention is something only the Titans themselves can take care of and responsibility for.

“It bothers me,” he says. “You know that I like to be in the spotlight and have those Monday night games and all those types of things.

“Right now, with the way we’ve been playing and what we’ve been putting out there, we probably don’t deserve to have that spotlight. But if we go out there and show what we can do and play how we know we can play, with the type of guys we have on this offense, it will turn around very quickly, and we’ll be right back where we left off.”

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for National Football Post.