Titans DC Pees gives his players financial incentive to read

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              FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2018, file photo, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel, right, talks with defensive coordinator Dean Pees before the team's NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla. The Titans face the Baltimore Ravens this week; Pees is a former Ravens defensive coordinator. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
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Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees gives his players a financial incentive to read his tip sheets very carefully each week.

Well, at least for the first player to find the bonus Pees hides in plain sight.

“All it is is to double-check and see if they’re reading,” Pees says.

Pees includes a note to come collect either $50 or $100 to the first player who finds his offer inside notes that can run up to nine pages long. The offer usually is buried in some of the play calls Pees has used on defense from the beginning, and the coordinator says he uses red ink to note any new play calls. Players then typically scan for everything noted in red.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel got so good at beating teammates to the hidden bonus when playing linebacker that Pees says he had to rule out him out.

“He’d be standing at my door going, ‘$100,'” Pees says. “I’d say, ‘Where’d you find it?’ And he’d tell me.”

Pees also has had weeks go by when nobody collected.

Writing out the sheets is a habit Pees picked up since his own college days. Each call usually has up to four sentences, and Pees says he better explains himself when writing out each call.

“I really think that stems back from starting out as a high school teacher,” Pees says. “When you do lesson plans and you do all that stuff, you really prepare and that’s how I got my start was as a teacher. And I felt that’s what good teaching is, is try to be very thorough, don’t be long, don’t be long-winded, just try to be exact and tell on point. And it helped me to know what I was talking about.”

REALLY BIG BEN

Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap was talking this week about how difficult it is to bring down quarterbacks such as Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger under the new NFL rules that prevent defenders from using their full body weight in a tackle.

“Any time you try to tackle a 300-pound quarterback, it’s going to be pretty difficult,” Dunlap says.

Wait, what?

How much does Big Ben weigh?

The 6-foot-5 quarterback changed his diet in the offseason to drop some weight entering his 15th season. Although he won’t give his official weight, he’s listed at 240 pounds in the Steelers’ media guide — 1 pound lighter than in recent years.

For comparison, Jared Lorenzen was listed at 275 pounds when he played for the Giants from 2006-07.

Does Dunlap really think Big Ben tips the scales at 300 pounds?

“With his equipment and his rib cage (protector) and all the other stuff he has on — sweat, whatever — I’m pretty sure he gets close,” Dunlap says.

PRAISING BREES

Few star NFL quarterbacks know more about Drew Brees than his former teammate, Philip Rivers.

After all, Rivers beat out Brees when the Chargers were in San Diego, sending Brees into free agency in 2006, when he landed with New Orleans.

Now, Brees holds nearly every NFL passing record, having surpassed Peyton Manning on Monday night for the lead in yardage.

Rivers was watching.

“Yeah, it was awesome,” he says. “I certainly was tuned in watching it, counting the yards down. A heck of an accomplishment. It’s crazy when you think about it, how many yards (72,103) that is. That’s a ton of yards.

“I think credit to him, obviously, and I heard Drew’s comments of him thanking and giving credit to so many people that have had a hand in it, as you expected him to do. Obviously, he’s a talented player and passer and all those things. I think it was just hard work and preparation – and really probably maybe more than anything, the belief in himself.”

San Diego chose Eli Manning atop the first round of the 2004 draft and then dealt him to the Giants for Rivers. Brees was the starter for the Chargers, but he soon began battling shoulder problems.

“I wasn’t here during the early times of his first couple years,” Rivers says. “I know it was a bumpy start, and then I get drafted here in 2004, and shoot, he kept me sitting for those two years.

“I was able to watch and learn, and he really got it going then, and what he’s done in New Orleans the last 13 years or whatever has been remarkable. So I was happy for him. He and I still keep in touch. It was fun to watch.”

SHOW OF HANDS

Minnesota wide receiver Adam Thielen turned in his fifth straight 100-yard game last Sunday, but there was no bigger contribution to the win at Philadelphia than his recovery of Jake Elliott’s onside kick for the Eagles with a little more than a minute left in the game and the Vikings leading by two points.

Elliott managed to put a plenty of backspin on the ball that made it skip off Thielen’s chest as he dropped to his knees like a catcher in baseball to keep it in front of him before diving forward to smother it just in time as several Eagles converged.

“It was nasty,” Thielen said. “It was the best onside kick I’ve ever seen.”

For a player who leads the NFL in receptions, the hands team on the kickoff return unit falls in the category of dirty work. But it’s an honor to be picked for it nonetheless.

“It’s definitely not my favorite play in the world because there’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time once the ball’s kicked, you’re not thinking about pressure,” Thielen said, adding: “The coaches, they want to put the best people out there for that situation, and you kind of hope your name is called for that. You want to be in those situations. You want to help this team win games, and if you’re out there for a hands play, most of the time it’s to help secure a win.”

HOMECOMING

One bright spot in the Miami Dolphins’ dismal loss last week at Cincinnati was the play of young linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker, both from Ohio State.

“I was giving them a hard time, saying we’ve got to play in Ohio every week,” Miami coach Adam Gase says.

Baker, a rookie, had his first two career sacks for a unit that held the Bengals’ potent offense to one touchdown. McMillan, who missed his entire rookie season last year with a knee injury, had six tackles and graded well at middle linebacker.

Credit their Buckeyes background, Baker says.

“It’s definitely not to be overlooked,” he explains.