Mike Vrabel shows he is hands-on type of coach for Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Mike Vrabel played 14 years in the NFL and the first-year Tennessee Titans coach is more than willing to pick up a pad for drills to get his point across.
And if someone knocks off his sunglasses during the process, not a problem.
''Yes, that's fun,'' Vrabel said Thursday after the Titans' first day of training camp. ''That's when you know it was a good punch. I use that as a barometer when the sunglasses go flying off. But, they're doing it the right way. They're delivering a blow and trying to transfer power to stop a guy's charge, in that case, the punt team and get out and cover.''
The Titans' season opener and Vrabel's debut as a head coach in a regular-season game is just 45 days away on Sept. 9 in Miami. His preseason debut comes Aug. 9 in Green Bay, and Vrabel was starting to drive his wife and son crazy being at home waiting for the start of training camp.
''You wake up in the middle of the night thinking about should I call a time-out in this situation? Then I'm like, I'm really losing my mind. It's just good to have the players back,'' Vrabel said.
Not only did Vrabel play in the NFL and win three Super Bowl rings, he's been an assistant at Ohio State and with the Houston Texans. That means he got to watch some of football's best make crucial decisions during games, including Bill Belichick, Urban Meyer and Bill O'Brien.
Now it'll be Vrabel's turn to decide, and he's been doing his best to prepare for kickoff by doing what he did so much of as a player: watch tape to help figure out what he can and can't challenge, figuring out how to use his timeouts, defending an opponent trying to run clock at the end of a game.
''We've got a library of 10 years,'' Vrabel said. ''You can go back and pretty much get whatever game we want and pull up a scenario and play it out.''
For now, Vrabel is trying to improve a Titans team that is coming off consecutive 9-7 seasons and the franchise's first playoff victory since January 2004 - all of which wasn't good enough to keep Mike Mularkey on the job . Music plays throughout practice to help simulate game-day noise, and his assistants spent parts of Thursday's session working on fundamentals like tip drills.
The Titans saw their coach throw himself into camp with the same participation and intensity he displayed during offseason organized team activities.
''Oh man, that feels good all the time when you get to hit the coach a little bit,'' three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said. ''It just shows you know the stuff that he was doing OTAs wasn't a fluke. He's continued to do it.''
Rookie linebacker Rashaan Evans joked that going up against a coach could be a way to work out some frustration. He said it was impressive to see Vrabel working in the trenches, and his new head coach already has given him a tip on how to play better.
''He's always told me not to think so much but just to play ball,'' Evans said. ''He says you're going to make mistakes. But you play fast and aggressive, everything else goes that'll get corrected.''
NOTES: Two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan reported for training camp Wednesday with his agents talking with the Titans about a contract extension past this season . Lewan did not take part in team drills, and he said that might be the Titans waiting until the new deal is done. Vrabel disagreed, noting Lewan already is under contract but missed the team's mandatory minicamp in June . The coach said the left tackle will rejoin team drills when the Titans feel he's ready.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker