Offseason expectations have exploded for the Titans. Look for them to have the best season of any in recent years.
We are talking AFC South champions. Whoever “they’’ are even predict not only a postseason run, but the few Super Bowl forecasts have Titans fans all in a tizzy.
It all starts with training camp, currently under way at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
Early returns indicate it has been at the top of the scale for how training camps are structured. Players, assistant coaches, front office employees, the people who maintain the practice fields and the staff that feeds the team all know their roles, what is expected of each and everyone of them.
Even though they are in non-contact drills for the most part, fans who watch clips on TV, in person or water fountain chatter have already formed a love affair with free agent wide receiver Eric Decker. The veteran knows how to run routes in his sleep, catch footballs that may or may not hit the target. He pulls them in over his head and other parts of the body.
Decker is important during camp because they have inexperienced wide receivers such as their first pick in the draft, Corey Davis out of Western Michigan.
Davis got into camp Sunday and on the field Monday. He passed the “look’’ test immediately. Coach Mike Mularkey tapped on the brakes so that Davis and the rest of the Titans roster don’t risk getting inflated heads.
Mularkey put it in his “this is how it is,’’ language when he said Davis has a long way to go, and included he meant that for the rest of the team.
A jacked up work ethic is a must in Titans’ training camp. Everything is done under a microscope. They want to be at their best in mundane drills, seven on seven drills and when they throw the welcome mat out two days in August (16 and 17) with the Carolina Panthers.
The key to a successful training camp is keeping quarterback Marcus Mariota mobile, injury free and still getting the hard work in. He will be monitored like a President in Intensive Care Unit.
If Mularkey and GM Jon Robinson had one wish it would be for Mariota to play 16 regular season games and playoffs.
This is the time for the new pieces of the puzzle brought in by Robinson to learn what has become the “Titans way.’’
There are consequences when players make bad decisions off the field. Offensive guard backup SebastianTretola, a sixth-round draft choice from Arkansas, must have been sleeping when Mularkey told the team just before giving them some time off prior to training camp.
Mularkey is old school. What he says he means. He told them to make good decisions, that if they could not choose between a good thing or a bad thing, it would more than likely be a bad choice.
Tretola was out in the wee hours in Arkansas, at a club when he was grazed by a gunshot. Bad choice. See you Sebastian.
So the camp goes on without him. It sent a message to the rest of the team. Playing in the NFL is a privilege.
Keep your nose clean. Know your assignments. Show up ahead of time. Do all the right things, little things that champions do.
I’m anxious to see how this team handles expectations. Training camp is only the first step.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.