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VOL. 37 | NO. 35 | Friday, August 30, 2013

Longshot running back might just win this roster Battle

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Long-term security isn’t a term that has followed Jackie Battle’s career.

Just about every training camp he’s been a part of in the past few years has been, well, a battle.

The odds were long when the running back signed with the Tennessee Titans one day before the team opened training camp.

After rushing for a career high 597 yards in 2011 with the Kansas City Chiefs, Battle went into free agency and found only a one-year deal with the San Diego Chargers.

Battle, 29, got a few opportunities with the Chargers, and one of those came last year against the downtrodden Titans, who were on their way to posting some of the worst defensive numbers in franchise history.

And while 2012 might be a season Titans fans would like to forget, the way Battle played against them that day (69 yards on 14 carries) made a lasting enough impression on Coach Mike Munchak and the Titans’ front office.

When Battle was still on the street the day before Tennessee opened camp on July 25, the phone rang, and Battle quickly accepted a one-year deal to play with the Titans.

“I had worked out for Tennessee two months prior, and I was kind of expecting them to call me back, but I didn’t get a call back until the night before,” Battle recalls. “But we were thrilled. I got up first thing in the morning and headed for camp.

“The style running back that I am, I’m a downhill power back, and the fourth quarter is kind of where I get to wear people out. That’s kind of what happened when I played Tennessee last year. I just kept pounding them, and it seemed like they didn’t want to tackle me anymore. So they remembered me from last year.”

His preseason performance will likely lead to a spot on Tennessee’s 53-man roster when final cuts come on Saturday. Battle has quickly progressed up the depth chart, starting at the bottom and surpassing veterans Darius Reynaud and Jalen Parmele in the race for the third spot. Reynaud could still make the roster as a return man.

Running back Jackie Battle was an afterthought for the Titans, who signed the free agent a day before camp opened this year. His preseason play has won the admiration of coaches and fans.

-- Ap Photo/Michael Keating

“He’s come in and really been a pleasant surprise for us, picking him up as late as we did. He’s come in and done a nice job. Each week, it seems like he’s been consistent,” Munchak says. “He protects well, he’s a physical guy, and he blocked well in the fourth quarter when they were blitzing. So he’s the full package, and we’re excited about how he’s done.”

Consistent is the word Battle says he wants connected with him.

He knows the drill. When a player comes into a situation with the odds against him, every rep, every play in practice and in games is important – whether the football is in his hands or not.

“I think I’ve been playing well on special teams, and I want to continue to do that. Running the ball, I think I’ve shown a little bit of power. I just want to make myself uncuttable,” Battle says.

Battle has been through roster fights before, having signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and being released after suffering an ankle injury.

He wound up going to Kansas City, where he spent time on the active roster and the practice squad but still managed to hang around for five years.

“You kind of have to find your niche, and that’s what I’ve done the past few years,” he explains. “You’ve got to just keep pressing on. There are 31 other teams that are seeing that film, so there’s an opportunity for you to get picked up by another team, and (you) just keep working hard and keep working out and be prepared to be picked up.”

And while long-term security would be nice, Battle says, it is more about making the most of the opportunity that becomes available.

“I guess you could say that you have a little more security when you sign a multi-year deal,” he says. “My first couple of contracts in Kansas City – I signed a three-year and a two-year – knowing you have a place in the offseason to go to OTAs and all that, but over the past couple of years, I’m sitting at home right before training camp and getting a call right before training camp.

“So it’s a little more security when you sign a multi-year deal, but it’s still year-to-year for the most part for everybody.”

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