Titans look to S Bernard Pollard for leadership

Bernard Pollard remembers the moment well.

Tennessee and Chris Johnson were running all over his Kansas
City Chiefs in October 2008, and he finally had it with Titans
right tackle David Stewart. So both men put up their fists, ready
to start swinging away. A photographer caught them in that moment,
and Stewart put a copy of the photo in his locker as a keepsake of
the near brawl.

When Pollard joined the Titans this year, Stewart went to his
new teammate, photo in hand, for an autograph.

”It’s a very cool photo,” Pollard said. ”But when you got 280
yards (rushing) on you … I was hot. They did a great job. But to
be on the team, for him to be my teammate, to be on a team with
him, man it’s a great thing.”

Stewart agrees.

”It’s always good to have a guy like that on the team,”
Stewart said.

The Titans certainly are counting on Pollard to lead a defense
bouncing back from a horrible season. They gave up a
franchise-worst 471 points in 2012, most in the NFL and took
advantage of Baltimore’s salary cap purge of a Super Bowl-winning
roster by signing the feisty veteran to a one-year contract a week
after he was released.

Tennessee’s roster in 2012 was its youngest in years, and the
Titans need someone to point the direction back to the playoffs.
Cornerback Jason McCourty, whose locker is next to Pollard’s, said
the safety brings a certain attitude that comes with being a
veteran going into his eighth season with a Super Bowl victory on
his resume.

”And he’s a leader,” McCourty said. ”We can look to him and
try to get his tone that he sets and kind of just follow. I think
that’s huge for our defense. We were missing that last year. Just
that guy that brings that aggression, that toughness and that loud
voice, I just think that’s going to help us.”

Pollard is the guy whose legal helmet-to-helmet hit on New
England running back Stevan Ridley forced a late fumble in
Baltimore’s AFC championship win in January, and he sprained Rob
Gronkowski’s ankle last year also in the AFC title game. Patriots’
fans remember only too well how he inadvertently hit Tom Brady’s
knee in 2008 or his tackle of Wes Welker when the receiver tore his
ACL.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray sees Pollard as the player who
can get his teammates’ attention.

”If there was a turnover and our guys walked on the football
field, what attitude you going out there with?” Gray said. ”And
if you’re going out with the wrong attitude, you’re probably giving
up a touchdown or a field goal, and then you need a guy like him to
get the rest of the guys to say, `Hey, look. We can’t give up
anything, even though the offense did this. We’re on the same
team.’ And I think that’s what you do, and you get better.”

Pollard has made his presence known both on the practice field
and in the locker room where he has both his termination letter
from Baltimore taped inside his locker along with a message for
this season with a note simply stating: ”GOAL – SUPER BOWL MISSION
– KILL !!!”

”I think everybody knows who I am, and … that has to be our
motto,” Pollard said. ”That has to be what we do. We, and this is
going to be the last time I address it, we are not murderers and I
should not have to say that because this is football. … For us we
got a helmet and shoulder pads and this is a man’s game. You come
across that line, we’re going to slap you. We don’t care about you.
That’s what we have to do.

Pollard said the Titans cannot care about hurting any feelings,
not when so little is expected out of them.

”At the end of the day, we’re looking for wins,” Pollard
said.

Titans coach Mike Munchak couldn’t have said it better
himself.

Notes: The Titans wrapped up practice 20 minutes early due to a
thunderstorm that sent fans hurrying to the parking lot. … Middle
linebacker Colin McCarthy, a defensive captain a year ago,
practiced with the first team for the first time this year. Moise
Fokou had been working ahead of McCarthy since being signed this
offseason. … Rookie RG Chance Warmack got his own chance at a
one-on-one Wednesday and found himself pushed back on his second
snap by DaJohn Harris, an undrafted free agent a year ago.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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