Attorney says Hunter 'didn't sucker punch anybody'

When the Tennessee Titans opened training camp last week, wide receiver Justin Hunter if anyone had questions about his current legal situation they should ask his lawyer.

Monday, his lawyer gave some answers.

Toby Vick told The Associated Press that Hunter’s actions during a melee at a Virginia Beach, Virginia bar on July 3 have been misrepresented. He said he has witnesses to support his stance and that the person who alleged Hunter assaulted him is not credible.

“We believe there are serious inconsistencies that have emerged in the person who brought the charges story, and we have also talked to a number of witnesses,” Vick said.

From The AP:

Prosecutors contend Hunter interrupted a conversation a man was having with someone else at the Sandbar Raw Bar in the oceanfront resort area of the city. After words were exchanged, Hunter punched the man in the face twice, according to prosecutors. After a melee ensued and the bar was cleared, prosecutors contend the man who Hunter originally punched was bent over and spitting out blood on the sidewalk, and Hunter “sucker punched” him again, before hopping into a waiting vehicle. Prosecutors said the man’s jaw was broken and he had to be treated at a hospital.

“He didn’t sucker punch anybody. We’re confident we’ll be able to establish that,” Vick said.

Hunter, a second-round draft pick in 2013, was with the Titans when they opened training camp Thursday. Players are off Tuesday and return to on-field work Wednesday morning.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Aug 4, 2015 6:29 AM

Beefed up Casey believes bigger will be better in 2015

Move over Atkins and Paleo there’s a new diet in town: The Jurrell Casey diet.

Nothing about it is traditional. Not even the results.

“Honestly I eat whatever I please,” Casey said Thursday during the Titans training camp press conference. “I just make sure to workout hard and stay in shape as I do it.”

Last season Casey’s playing weight was 285 to 290 pounds and that just did not work the style of play he wants to employ. 

“I’m a couple pounds heavier. I’m at 298 so I’m feeling good, feeling great,” Casey said. “I had to get a little bit heavier, last year I felt I was getting moved a little bit easier than normal. I didn't like playing at the weight I was at last year so I said I’ve got to come back and put a little bit of weight on.”

Last season the Titans surrendered 137.2 rushing yards per game, ranking 31st out of 32 teams. The ultimate goal for Casey is not just to be able to eat whatever he wants, but to grow into a bigger body with the intent of breaking up double teams and stopping the run.

“Sacks and all that don’t matter if you cant stop them on first and second down,” he said. “So our job is to stop them and put them in third and long as much as possible so we get as many opportunities to rush the quarterback.”

With a bigger, healthier body to go along with some new playmaking teammates both offensive and defensively, Casey seems optimistic about the upcoming season.

“I think every year should be exciting. You never know what the season is going to pan out for you. Every game you’ve got to take one at a time and try to win as much as possible,” Casey said. “Bringing in the amount of players that we’ve brought in this offseason and adding players on the offensive side, you know big time players, is going to boost our confidence a little bit more and give us the opportunity to go out and win games.”

He’s hoping a couple extra pounds help as well.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Aug 3, 2015 5:15 AM

Reasons to believe: Titans in 2015

This is the time of year when anything is possible.

The Tennessee Titans, having missed out on the postseason for six straight years, have yet to lose a game. Of course, they haven’t won one either.

It is a challenge to think this team can craft a major turnaround with — among other things — a rookie quarterback, no proven running back and a continued transition to new schemes that were implemented in 2014. Yet for those inclined to do so, there is no current evidence to dispute their point of view.

If ever there was a time for optimism, this is it. So we offer it up, matched by an equal dose of pessimism for those who are convinced nothing notable has changed under coach Ken Whisenhunt and General Manager Ruston Webster.

 
Three reasons to believe the Titans will be a playoff team in 2015

The new kid: Marcus Mariota was named the starting quarterback about the time the Titans used the second overall pick in the 2015 draft to get him. In short, the guy is a winner. He got the 2014 Heisman Trophy, won 36 games as a three-year starter in college and threw 105 touchdown passes with just 14 interceptions at Oregon. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III recently got their respective teams to the playoffs as rookies. So it can happen.

The old man: The addition of Dick Lebeau to the coaching staff might have been more important than any offseason player transaction. There’s not a team in the league that doesn’t employ at least a few concepts on defense that Lebeau, who is 77 years old, pioneered. He has proven that he can make stars of high draft picks and undrafted longshots alike with his scheme that emphasizes speed and can attack an offense from most anywhere.

The bad boys: Increasingly over the last couple years, the Titans have been willing to take on guys who come with character concerns but who also have undeniable ability. They drafted tackle Taylor Lewan in the first round last year and wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round this year. They also added free agent cornerback Perrish Cox this offseason. They all offer the potential to provide significant upgrades — just as long as they can stay out of trouble.

 
Three reasons to believe the Titans will miss the playoffs once again

The quarterback: For all of Mariota’s obvious virtues, he ran a spread offense at Oregon and the vast majority of spread quarterbacks have struggled with the transition to the NFL. For crying out loud, the guy never had called a play from a huddle until his first workout with the Titans. It’s simply asking too much for him to learn all he needs to know about a pro style offense and elevate this team at the same time.

The coach: Yes, Whisenhunt (pictured) led the Arizona Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance in his second season as head coach of that franchise. Then, though, he went 8-8 in his first season and only improved by one game (9-7) before his team got hot in the playoffs. Overall, his record as a head coach is 45-65 and he has not had a winning record in his last four seasons in that role.

The talent: Tennessee has had one player named to the Pro Bowl in the last four years — and that one, cornerback Alterraun Verner, left in free agency the ensuing offseason. The interior of the offensive line is the same group that struggled much of the last two seasons, and the defense does not have a proven pass rusher (no one has led the team in sacks in back-to-back seasons since Kyle Vanden Bosch in 2005, '06 and '07). Last year’s leading rusher, Bishop Sankey, had 569 yards. Examples of where this team comes up short are abundant.

 
The bottom line

Yes, it happens in the NFL. Teams got from terrible to the top (or at least close to it) in short order. One recent example is the Kansas City Chiefs, who were 2-14 in 2012 but then went 11-5 and made the playoffs the following season, their first under coach Andy Reid. That, however, is the exception. And that Chiefs team had a handful of Pro Bowl players in place.

The Titans remain very much a work in progress, and there is a lot that must be done before this franchise legitimately can ponder the possibility of a playoff berth.


(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 31, 2015 11:00 AM

Whisenhunt gets rare opportunity to improve upon 2-14 season

Ken Whisenhunt knows what people want to hear about how the Tennessee Titans will do this season.

“What I would like to say is we’ll be better,” the second-year head coach said Thursday. “I mean, you know better than 2-14 isn’t hard – I hope. So, be a better football team.”

Whether or not he can make that happen remains to be seen because, in terms of franchise history, he is in uncharted territory.

When the Titans went 2-14 last year, it was the third time the franchise sunk to such depths. Each of the first two times it happened the head coach did not even make it to the end of that season, let alone the start of the next one.

Each of the first two times the team, then the Houston Oilers, did improve the following season.

The positive sign for Whisenhunt is that in the most recent case, 1995, a 7-9 mark immediately followed the 2-14. That five-game jump included a bit of coaching continuity. Jeff Fisher was named interim coach after Jack Pardee was fired en route to 2-14 and got the job on a full-time basis the following year.

That was not the case the first time it happened.

BOUNCING BACK?
A look at how the Houston Oilers answered the previous two 2-14 seasons in franchise history:

1994: 2-14; coach Jack Pardee-x
1995: 7-9; coach Jeff Fisher
(x-Pardee was fired and Fisher was named interim coach with five games remaining in 1994)

• 1983: 2-14; coach Chuck Studley-x
• 1984: 3-13: coach Hugh Campbell
(x-Studley was fired and Ed Biles was named interim coach with six games remaining in 1982)

When the players reported for training camp Thursday, they were not so much concerned with the impact of a 2-14 season on the coach as they were with the impact on themselves and their fans.

“We owe this city something,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “… I mean, this is such a great city. Everywhere I go people are – even though we had such a rough season last year – are just positive and have a great outlook on it. We might not have the tradition of the Steelers or the Packers or something like that, but it’s something we owe this city. And we owe it to ourselves.”

They’re also not the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams or Carolina Panthers. All of them went 2-14 in the four years prior to last season and all of them changed coaches the next year. Indianapolis in 2012 and Kansas City in 2013 both made the playoffs. Fisher virtually repeated his Houston performance and led St. Louis to a 7-8-1 mark in 2012.

No team that went 2-14 between 2009 and 2013 stood pat. Last season two teams finished with that mark (Tampa Bay was the other) and both gave their coach a second chance. Absent a change at the top, players are still expecting things to be different.

“I think up and down the football team … guys are really motivated to have a better season, to build upon what we’ve already set as a standard in OTAs,” rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “As a rookie coming in that’s exciting. It’s fun to be a part of that. I hope I can build upon this attitude and make sure that as we continue forward we’re always getting better.”

As Whisenhunt said, it will be tough to get worse.

Briefly: Veteran defensive tackle Sammie Hill was placed on the physically unable to perform list and will spend the first part of camp doing conditioning work after having spent a good portion of the offseason rehabbing from knee surgery. Whisenhunt said he did think it would be long before Hill was on the active roster.

Isaako Aaitui (6-foot-4, 307 pounds) was signed to replace Hill. Undrafted in 2011, he has spent time with Miami, the New York Jets, New Orleans and Washington but has appeared in just four games (all with Miami).

Also, tight end Dorin Dickerson was placed on injured reserve.

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

Jul 31, 2015 5:15 AM

Mariota laughs off rumor that desire to surf stalled contract talks

Marcus Mariota did not take a stand about his desire to surf during contract negotiations with the Tennessee Titans.

In fact, the second pick in the 2015 NFL draft said Thursday he never stood on a surfboard until rumors circulated in recent weeks that his desire to take part in the water sport was a point of contention with the team.

As a joke, therefore, he said he and some buddies decided they should do it.

“I had tried it before and I wasn’t too good at it,” Mariota said. “So I kind of brushed it off. This time around I was able to stand up and catch a few waves. So it was fun.

“… I had never really surfed in my life, to be honest with you.”

He stressed that his preferred water toy is the boogie board, which is considered far less dangerous. It’s still a means to ride a wave but people do so by laying on a small piece of hydrodynamic foam.

Even so he rated his performance surfing that day as “not bad, actually.”

The native Hawaiian never has been an NFL quarterback either but the Titans expect him to do even better in that regard.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt reiterated on the day that players reported for the start of training camp that he plans for Mariota to be the starter in Week 1 and that the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner has shown a promising ability to quickly learn some of the particulars of an NFL offense.

Undoubtedly, the amount of time Mariota spent on the practice field during rookie orientation, organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp greatly exceeded his preparation to surf. The hope, therefore, is he is much better than “not bad” when he finally gets to stand in the pocket.

“I called him afterward and said, ‘Really? Surfing clause?’” Whisenhunt said. “We had a good laugh about that. I know Marcus does a good job getting himself ready. I’m not worried about that.”

Mariota said he likewise was nonplussed by the fact that he was the last of this year’s first-round NFL picks to sign a contract. He and the Titans finally finalized their deal on July 21.

“I trusted the entire process with my agent and the entire Titans organization,” he said. “I knew that it would get done.”

He was so confident, in fact, that he decided to have a little fun in the meantime.

“I think when we had our surfboards out there, the reactions people had of like, ‘You’re not supposed to be doing that,’” he said. “It was funny to see.”

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

Jul 30, 2015 2:35 PM

Lewan calls for Titans' offensive line to play 'a little over the line'

Taylor Lewan has developed a simple formula for playing well on the offensive line.

“Keep your mouth running and back it up with your actions,” he said.

The Tennessee Titans’ 2014 first-round pick had plenty more to say Thursday, the day players reported for the start of training camp. Among other things, he discussed the sting of last season’s 2-14 record, the early impact of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and the specifics of the team’s conditioning test, which he easily passed.

His most pointed commentary, though, came on the subject he knows best: offensive line play. Now the team’s starting left tackle, he made perfectly clear what he expects from himself and the four big men who line up to his right.

“Completely harass [and] bully defensive linemen and kind of go after guys all the time,” he said. “I’m not saying hurt people or anything like that. That’s not how I want to play football or I want anybody to play football.

“But if you have an attitude about you and you want to push guys around … we have enough talent on this team, if we get the right attitude we can be an offensive line that nobody wants to play against.”

There are no traditional statistics to measure offensive line play, but there are some that paint a not-so-pretty picture of that unit’s performance last season.

For example, Tennessee was one of two teams that ranked in the bottom seven in both rushing yards per game (90.4) and sacks allowed (50). The other was Tampa Bay, which – not coincidentally – was the NFL’s only other 2-14 team.

“To be brutally honest I think we were soft,” Lewan said. “I think [offensive line coach] Bob Bostad would say the same thing. That’s definitely one thing he’s been preaching this offseason – we want to be tough, we want to road-grade, we want to run that power like nobody’s ever done it.

“… I want that rugged blue-collar offensive line and we’re very capable of doing that and having an attitude and playing, getting a little chirpy every once in a while and doing things that might stand out a little bit. Guys might disagree with what I’m saying but, to me, that’s the way to play offensive line.”

It’s also the best way he sees for the Titans to snap their string of three straight losing seasons and maybe even snap their six-year playoff drought.

“We have to be the foundation of this offense, the foundation of the team,” Lewan said. “And if we work together, play a little dirty, play a little over the line, a little crazy and work together then I think we’ll be really successful.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 30, 2015 1:09 PM

Berry back on field after eight-month battle with cancer

Eric Berry was in bed, but it wasn’t a nightmare.

The effects of chemotherapy to battle Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diminished his physical capabilities to the point that even the most basic of daily rituals became a challenge.

“It was a battle everyday,” the former University of Tennessee star said Wednesday. “I mean it came to a point where I had to set goals to just get out of bed. ‘Today I’m going to get out of bed, I’m going to make sure I get out of bed and I’m not going to stay in the bed all day,’ but I literally would stay in the bed all day.”

That was just months ago but it some ways it seems like a distant memory. Diagnosed last November, Berry began treatment almost immediately.

He was cleared Tuesday to practice with the Kansas City Chiefs when the opened training camp this week.

“Football carries over to life,” Berry said. “Whatever you learn in football it carries right over to life and it is vice-versa so the things that you learn in life you carry onto the football field. So I just tried to use all those experiences and everything that I have gone through in the past on and off the field and all of my experiences, I just tried to use it to get through this.

“To be honest, it felt good to get back onto the field, but in my mind, I still feel like I have work to do.”

Physically, he is one pound heavier than he was when the diagnosis cut short his 2014 season.

It remains to be seen whether he once again can be the player who made three Pro Bowls in four years, the first of which came after his rookie season. That’s not what it important at the moment, though.

“This experience has been a roller coaster, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Berry said. “I’m just so thankful that the training staff when the whole situation happened, they didn’t just sweep it under the rug because they easily could have done that, because at first we couldn’t find anything in the x-rays and the MRI kind of showed some things. I mean it could have been so easy for them to say, ‘you are okay – get back out there,’ but they did the proper protocol, proper procedure and

“I’m just very thankful for that because without that I don’t know where we would be right now.”

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

Jul 30, 2015 10:12 AM

Tight end tries again to catch on with Titans

Chase Coffman is nothing if not persistent.

It has been six years since the Cincinnati Bengals drafted the tight end in the third round out of Missouri. In that time he has played 35 games (barely more than two seasons worth) and has been a part of more transactions (15) than he has pass completions.

Undaunted, the 28-year-old continues to try to make it in the NFL.

He was one of two players the Tennessee Titans signed Wednesday, less than 24 hours before players were scheduled to report for training camp. They also added running back David Fluellen, who spent time in training camp last summer with Philadelphia and Indianapolis.

Coffman has not made an active roster out of training camp since his rookie season with the Bengals but he rarely has been off the radar of NFL teams, as evidenced by his transaction history.

The rundown:

• Signed six times (Tennessee three times, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay and Atlanta once)
• Cut five times (Cincinnati twice, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Tennessee once)
• Signed to the practice squad three times (Cincinnati twice, Atlanta once)
• Activated off the practice squad twice (Cincinnati and Atlanta)
• Allowed to become a free agent twice (Atlanta once, Tennessee once)
• Placed on injured reserve once (Cincinnati)

He played a career-high 13 games last season for the Titans, who signed him late in training camp, cut him prior to the start of the season and brought him back in late September when injuries depleted their tight end ranks. He caught six passes (also a career-high) and scored his first career touchdown.

Even so, with returning veterans Delanie Walker and Craig Stevens plus free agent Anthony Fasano, he will need someone to get injured or something unexpected to happen in order to make the roster this time.

It’s doubtful, though, that this will be his last chance. For Chase Coffman, there always seems to be another opportunity somewhere.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 30, 2015 7:02 AM

Mariota moves into 'Heisman House,' gets keys to an SUV

Marcus Mariota officially has taken his place under the same fictional roof as more than a dozen other all-time college football greats.

By virtue of the fact that he was the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, the Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback was granted residence in the Heisman House on Tuesday.

Rather than receive a key to a front door that does not actually exist, however, he was given the keys to a very real 2015 Nissan Armada SUV at the automaker’s North America headquarters in Franklin.

From Business Wire:

Now entering its fifth year, the popular Heisman House marketing campaign features a series of video vignettes, a traveling college campus/stadium tour and social media elements, including the opportunity for fans to vote online for their favorite Heisman Trophy candidates. In 2014 Nissan’s official crowed-sourced vote, with more than 400,000 participants, went to Mariota.

“On behalf of all Nissan employees, we are pleased to welcome you, Marcus, to the Heisman House. We hear you more than held your own against some of the Heisman veterans during the production of the spots,” Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Sales & Marketing and Operations, U.S.A., Nissan North America, Inc., said, according to Business Wire. “We also want to extend a heartfelt welcome to Nashville and to our Nissan family. Your new Armada will look right at home parked at Nissan Stadium.”

Mariota is one of 14 Heisman winners who will be featured in broadcast and social media commercials and shorts that will air throughout the football season.

The first ones to feature him will debut Sept. 3 and will add to his rapidly growing public presence. Even before he has played his first NFL game he has signed a number of regional and national sponsorship deals.

(Photo: Nissan/North America)

Jul 29, 2015 1:12 PM

Mariota merchandise moves quickly as first NFL season approaches

Marcus Mariota is more than just a quarterback.

The Tennessee Titans’ rookie is a brand. A successful one, at that.

The second overall pick in this year’s draft has yet to play an NFL game but was ninth in the NFL Players Association report on merchandise sales for the first quarter of 2016, released Thursday. He was tops among the three rookies on the list (No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston was 10th), one of seven quarterbacks in the top 10 and the only Tennessee player among the top 50.

The figures include “total sales of all officially licensed merchandise from March 1 through May 31, 2015.” That includes all items sold at retail outlets and online by companies that range from Nike to Fathead to Bleacher Creatures.

According to the report, “Mariota also led in collegiate co-brand hardlines which includes licensees Oyo Sports, Fanatics, Forever Collectibles, Team Beans and Team Spirit Store.”

SELLING THEMSELVES
The top 20 on the latest NFLPA merchandise sales report:

1.         Tom Brady, New England Patriots
2.         Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
3.         Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
4.         Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
5.         Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
6.         J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
7.         Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
8.         Odell Beckham, Jr., New York Giants
9.         Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
10.       Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
11.       DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles
12.       Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
13.       Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns
14.       Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
15.       LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
16.       Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
17.       Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
18.       Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
19.       Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers
20.       Navorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

Jul 24, 2015 5:10 AM