NASHVILLE, Tenn. — During training camp, the Titans have put in plenty of work on the field and in the film room.
But not like Wednesday. Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt surprised the team by taking the players to a local movie theatre before wrapping up the day with a late afternoon practice session.
"It was a break," Whisenhunt said. "They’ve worked hard. It was a little reward for their work in camp. So, it was probably the first time I have been able to surprise them the way we did. But it was little bit of a team bonding kind of thing, too. That’s an important piece of it."
The players got to choose between three movies — "Hercules", "Into the Storm" or "Guardians of the Galaxy".
"They were being evaluated on which movie they chose," Whisenhunt said with a laugh. "They are being evaluated on everything."
Running back Dexter McCluster said the break was a nice surprise.
"I was like a little kid again," he said. "You get up and walking out there for the day and getting your mind ready and coach comes and says, ‘Hey, we’re going to the movies.’ It means a lot.
"(Whisenhunt) appreciates the work that we put on the field, so when you work hard, sometimes you get to bond like that. He is the type of guy that if you put in the work, he is going to treat you to something."
McCluster gave "Guardians of the Galaxy" two thumbs up, but only after hitting the concession stand for Sour Patch, popcorn and a large fruit punch.
"I loved it, actually," he said. "I might go back and see it again with my daughter."
Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley also watched Guardians of the Galaxy and appreciated the opportunity to get away from being sequestered at training camp since July 25.
"I think everybody was surprised," he said. "I don’t think anybody expected that, and you could definitely tell by the reaction after the announcement was made. Guys were jumping up and down and pretty excited about it."
Then again, several players might have taken advantage of some quiet time to get caught up on some rest.
"Some guys may have dozed off," Wimbley said, "but that happens any way in movies, regardless if you are in camp or not, especially if the movie is boring."
The first half of the Titans’ first preseason game last Saturday night versus the Packers was played in a downpour, leaving Whisenhunt and staff less than an opportune evaluation of the team.
"Last week was really hard to evaluate as far as all that goes," he said. "It was an evaluation, but it wasn’t what you would use normally as an evaluation."
But because of that, though, Whisenhunt said the approach for Friday’s preseason game at New Orleans won’t change.
"Handling a dry ball, we should be able to see a lot more of what we can do offensively," Whisenhunt said. "We’re not trying to game plan or run all of our offense, but just see some match-ups with some players and being able to win. Defensively, we are going to evaluate tackling to see if we can do that a little bit better and our fits on defense. Those are two areas that we need to get better at."
While certain players react differently in game situations, Whisenhunt said training camp practice sessions allow for ample opportunity to evaluate players.
"You get a good feel for the guys from a standpoint from having been in practice with them this long and competing with them," he said. "You want to see them in game situations, but we’re going to have to play it by ear per se and see how the game goes. There are a number of things we have to evaluate other than worrying about a (player) rotation."
Nearly all of training camp, the same five offensive linemen have worked together as the first unit. From left to right that includes 10th-year tackle Michael Roos, sixth-year guard Andy Levitre, second-year center Brian Schwenke, second-year guard Chance Warmack and sixth-year tackle Michael Oher.
"Until somebody else beats them out," Whisenhunt said of the starting offensive line unit getting so many reps together, "I think that’s an important thing. It establishes an esprit deccor and pride in your unit, and that’s important."
While Levitre missed a few practices early in training camp while recovering from an appendectomy, first-round draft pick Taylor Lewan filled that left guard spot. Eventually, Lewan is slated to take over permanently at left tackle.
"I think you see flashes of it," Whisenhunt said of the offensive line’s cohesiveness thus far. "This will be a good test this week (at New Orleans), and I see them working together. I like what I hear in the huddle when I’m in there with them, so I hope it continues."
The Titans opened training camp for viewing by the general public at Saint Thomas Sports Park only eight times this year, the fewest in recent memory. After Tuesday’s practice session, the 20th of training camp and last one open to the public, Whisenhunt said to expect more public availability next year during training camp.
"It’s really been nice having the fans out here for the open practices," Whisenhunt said, "and I’m sorry that we didn’t have more than what we had this year. Maybe we’ll be able to work on that a little bit next year, but we appreciate their support in coming out here."
Whisenhunt said one reason for less open practices was that he wanted to simulate a game week with the team leading up to the third preseason game a week from Saturday at Atlanta.
"Our fans are important to us," Whisenhunt said, "and I think next week we go into an in-season week schedule, and I think it’s really important for that to make it as much like an in-season week, because we’ve never done that. We’ve never done a game week together. That’s the reason for it this year."
The Titans made several roster moves on Wednesday, adding veteran center Steve Vallos and linebacker Kendrick Adams, while placing linebacker David Gilbert and offensive lineman Viondy Merisma on waivers.
Vallos is a six-year NFL veteran who has played in 59 games, including 15 last season for the Broncos, and was a 2007 seventh-round draft pick out of Wake Forest by the Seahawks. After two seasons in Seattle, he also spent time with the Eagles, Jaguars and Browns. With backup center Chris Spencer nursing an ankle injury, Vallos (6-3, 310) was added for depth at the position.
Adams (6-5, 250), an undrafted free agent who originally signed with the Jaguars after the 2012 NFL Draft, spent the past two seasons on the practice squads of the Bucs, Lions, Bengals and Giants, who placed him on waivers earlier this month. He started two seasons at defensive end at LSU from 2011-12.