In 'Stretch,' Mike Vrabel and Titans have a Keyser Soze 'who's always got something'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Vrabel exits the door from the Titans’ training room, crosses the media patio and moves onto the practice field. A cart dressed up like a giant speaker is to his right. Inside is an iPhone that controls the music, and one of the actual speakers from which blares the early part of the team’s practice soundtrack: Alabama’s “Down Home.”

“That’s terrible, Stretch,” Vrabel shouts.

He sticks his head inside, finds the controls and changes the song to “Last Time That I Checc’d” by Nipsey Hussle featuring YG.

Stretch

Happy players explode, thrilled with the change. It’s as if Stretch set the coach up to be a hero.

Stretch is 29-year-old John Streicher (pronounced Striker). By title, he’s assistant to head coach. In practice – as well as at practice -- he’s much more.

“He’s like Keyser Soze,” Arthur Smith said. “You don’t want to cross Stretch. It’s been bad for a lot of people. Please quote me on that.”

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Running back David Fluellen is working to return from knee surgery and could be ready to play in the Titans' season opener in Cleveland on Sept. 8.FluellenBucsPractice

It's unclear when exactly Fluellen got hurt or what exactly he did, but he's been out of action since before the team's preseason opener on Aug. 8. With Derrick Henry also out, Jeremy McNichols has worked behind Dion Lewis in the two preseason games, averaging 4.1 yards per carry on 14 chances.  

Fluellen suffered a knee injury against the Patriots Nov. 11, 2018 and while the Titans held out hope he could return he went on IR Dec. 20.

Fluellen is a favorite of Mike Vrabel and the third-year running back from Toledo fits right in with the coach's frequent message that the team will treat a player as the player treats the team. It would be a big surprise if Fluellen didn't maintain his spot on the roster as the team's third running back. [Unlocked]

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With Jonnu Smith back, Titans can sort though all TE options

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Delanie Walker showed he’s all the way back with a nice touchdown catch against the Patriots Saturday evening. Jonnu Smith passed a physical and came off PUP Monday.SMithBucsPractice

Mike Vrabel is poised to have a full deck of cards at tight ends for the season opener in Cleveland for the first time since the start of last year’s season opener, and the question about the position won’t be the top of the group but at the bottom.

Anthony Firkser is an excellent pass catcher who’s got to get better blocking. Ryan Hewitt is an H-back type who’s got to be better in-line and MyCole Pruitt is an in-line blocker who’s got to be better in that H-back role.

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Blake Beddingfield served as a Titans' scout for 19 years, the final six as the team's director of college scouting. During the regular season, he writes scouting previews and reviews of every Titans' game for PaulKuharsky.com. Here is an unlocked sample of his work. Read him every week here by becoming a member.

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special contributor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Patriots started all second-teamers on their defense to open the game versus the Titans and the Titans countered with their starting offensive unit.

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On the surface, that looked bad for the Titans to go three-and-out on consecutive drives against backups, but you have to remember in pre-season the backups are fighting for their careers and usually put forth maximum effort at all times in these games.

Even though they are not their most talented or experienced players the Patriots have they are still capable to compete in a half of a football game.

On offense, the Patriots started two first-team players in TE Ben Watson and LT Isaiah Wynn. All the other players were backups. [Unlocked]

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Marcus Mariota was just fine Saturday evening in a 22-17 preseason Titans loss to the Patriots.

But it seemed Titans’ Twitter wanted to throw a parade for his six-of-nine, 63-yard, one TD effort with a 2-point conversion run that scared the hell out of everyone as it ended with a flip forced by Duron Harmon’s low hit to initiate the tackle.MariotaPatriots19

I think fans of the team and its starting quarterback have felt under siege lately and pounced on anything that might counter that.

The siege was uncalled for as was the celebration of a performance I’d hope for from any quality NFL starter in Week 2 of the preseason. [Unlocked]

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Titans' dream QB answer for 2020 just finished two days of practice in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The odds are very good that Tom Brady will finish his illustrious career with the New England Patriots.

But he took below-market deals in 2013 and 2016 and for the first time in what will be a 20-year career after he finishes the 2019 season, he could be a free agent. He recently signed what’s been deemed a pseudo-extension that upped his 2019 money and included an interesting stipulation: he cannot be franchise or transition tagged next year when the final two seasons of the deal will void and he will hit free agency barring another new contract.Brady

More than one Patriots’ reporter asked me Wednesday or Thursday about just how much cap room the Titans will have next year. Why? Because they think that, while it may be a long shot, Brady could be making visits next spring.

He didn't want $32 million-plus in an exclusive franchise tag deal next year. Maybe it's because he wants to see how the rest of the league values him. He will be able to, for the first time, if he so desires.

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Tom Brady precision on full display versus Titans' defense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As the Patriots revved up for Thursday’s joint session with the Titans, Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham threw a bit.BradyWindup

Brady would simply call out a spot: “Red line, 40 yards,” and the equipment man they were throwing to would get there, 40 yards from the quarterback on the red line, five yards inside the sideline. He’s then put the ball directly on the spot, his two protegees doing their best to follow suit while Brady called out the next spot to get the target ready for it.

It was a small sampling of the complete-control quarterback in complete control. [Unlocked]

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