NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An NFL practice field can be a heartless place.

I’ve seen easily over 100 injuries in practices I’ve been allowed to watch where a player went down and needed some time and attention to assess and address an injury.

And it’s completely typical that after it’s established no life is at risk, the ball gets moved downfield or upfield or to another field and practice resumes with a minimal delay.CyprienOAK

When Johnathan Cyprien went down on Wednesday, however, practice stopped. Mike Vrabel told his coordinators to talk to guys on the sidelines, and I saw Matt LaFleur indicate position coaches should round up their guys.

It was not an immediate turn to next man up, it was a full team pause to the one who went down.

Vrabel said he wanted to respect Cyprien and his situation.

The rest of the secondary and the entire team have to appreciate that, and hope they earn the same respect that is it’s ever their turn, they get a similar reaction.

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TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Taylor Lewan did something silly on the first day of camp and came to regret it.

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He flopped to be funny in a drill with a teammate, which put new line coach Keith Carter in a spot and left Lewan saying it was the wrong time to be joking around.

All of which served to present a question: How does a new, young position coach establish himself as the leader of a group early on?

The early tone is important, and such coaches need to strike a balance, where it’s clear they are the boss but they aren’t necessarily overbearing.

“This business comes down to relationships and trust,” the 36-year old Carter said. “We spend a ton of time together. Just like two brothers would in a house, a coach and a player, sometimes you have a disagreement, an issue comes up and you work through it. Taylor and I are great.”

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Corey Davis has had some fantastic moments and he’s had some poor ones.

Like a lot of players a week into camp, he’s been inconsistent.

Despite that, his reviews have been largely good from a lot of quarters, and I think I know why.

He’s carrying himself differently.DavisCamp

(Photos courtesy of Rich Pharris, 104.5 The Zone.)

“Body language is everything,” Davis told us recently on The Midday 180. “Coach Vrabel always speaks on that. Whenever we drop a ball, don’t clap your hands, have your chest out walking back to the huddle and make it up on the next play.

“Body language is huge. It’s definitely something I am more conscious of this year.”

It’s hard to be intimidated by a slouchy guy with an aww-shucks posture. That’s why I consider the success that Eli Manning has had somewhat of a miracle. Poor body language has been an ingredient in the recent failures of some other big Titans' receivers, namely Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A year ago today, with little understanding of what creating my own business would entail, I took the plunge and launched this site.

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Roughly three months before, when ESPN.com did not exercise an option for a 10th year for me, I felt the sort of uncertainty that comes with losing a job.

And many of you told me better things were ahead, that it’d prove a blessing.

I figured it was just what people said, a standard line I’d offered myself to friends and colleagues. My uncle in Arizona insisted it would be the case, that when it had happened to him it proved a fantastic launching point.

He and the rest of you were right.

With complete independence, I've felt liberated. I can write what I want, ignore what I want and I don't have to meet the expectations of middle-man editors who have never seen the Titans' practice facility better yet worked their locker room. I don't have to write stuff conceived by the whims of big bosses, either.

I'm thankful that the Titans have treated me exactly the same as they did when I spent 12 years at The Tennessean and nine at ESPN and as the local veteran, I've been able to offer context you can't find elsewhere. 

But for this whole thing to work and grow as it has so far, it's needed you -- and you guys have been fantastic.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Logan Ryan and the Titans defensive backs have been watching a lot of video.

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Of their feet.

In slow motion.

“This is the most tape I’ve seen in slo-mo,” he said. "What might look like a good play to the fans could have been better. What might look like a bad play to the fans could have been a good play It’s a game of inches and we’re really trying to find that inch.

“Corner is a lot about knowing when to go and knowing when to be patient, it a fine line. If you open up everything too fast, to stay on top of everything, you give up everything underneath. If you don’t open up you get beat deep. You can learn to play patient when things are in slo-mo. You might have felt like you were, but you can see things like not staying square, your hips, just angles. You can always be better on your angles and make your job easier.”

The Titans staff is doing more to break things down to the elemental level than any staff here I can remember. In the individual position periods of practice and in periods with stations players rotate through where they get one small message and focus, the Titans are concentrating in practice in the sort of little things coaches talk about everywhere.

We’ve seen players try to block a punt with precisely five steps off the edge. We’ve seen them try to catch a pass just as they get hammered by a pad. We’ve seen them stand next to a receiver and try to break up a pass while looking only at the target’s hands and face. 

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TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – DaQuan Jones got a big contract even as he stuck to the sidelines during team work this spring.

He got a three-year, $21 million deal with $4million as a signing bonus and $14 million guaranteed.

That’s quite a financial commitment and he said he’s thankful for the show of faith.IMG 2635

Jones took a while to get going in 2017, but was playing his best ball when he suffered a season-ending biceps injury on Dec. 3 against Houston.

He said it was precautionary that he was only doing a bit during OTAs.

“I just know how hard I worked on it last year improving the pass rushing part of my game,” he said. “Going into this year I feel a little behind the 8-ball because I was out for so much longer. I feel these first couple days of training camp have really helped me out, gotten me back into the speed of football.

“Right now I work on hands and pad level, getting back into the swing of that.”

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As new position coaches have worked to learn their players and figure out how to get the most out of them, defensive line coach Terrell Williams has been vulnerable with his charges.

He’s shared the story of the 2012 death of his 4-year old son, Tyson.

“That was a tough time, but what it’s taught me is to be thankful and grateful for what you have," he said. "We had our son for four years, my wife and I, a short time. But you know what? Those were the best four years of our life.TerrellWilliams

“It makes me appreciate my players, appreciate the people that I work with, appreciate relationships and life is short. In my mind I give everything I’ve got. The guys that I coach are important to me, they are like family to me. Heck, Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour, Andre Carter and Dave Tollefson, those were the pallbearers at my son’s funeral.

Tyson Williams got sick unexpectedly on Nov. 2, his birthday, and he was gone on Nov. 9. Stories at the time said the illness was undisclosed and Williams didn’t offer that detail as he remembered his son and spoke of how the loss has shaped his approach to his life and work.

“The thing I’ve learned is: don’t question it,” he said. “You accept it and every day you’ve got to make a choice to kind of move forward. The thing that I’ve learned losing my child is there were people in this league, more people than you realize, that have lost children.”

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Stuff of note from Sunday’s training camp practice:

I still see some timing and anticipation issues from Marcus Mariota, and we’ve been told by smart people to expect such things as he gets the new offense down and that thinks will eventually fully click in. He had an early boot left with a throwback deep right for Walker that was good – Will Compton got a bit lost and would have been called for PI. That’s the sort of mismatch the Titans should eat up.MariotaCampHood

(Photo courtesy of Rich Pharris, 104.5 The Zone.)

Mariota threw a few balls I thought weren’t driven enough and that had a slight wobble. Adoree' Jackson broke one of them up intended for Taywan Taylor that had a good trajectory but was a touch short and wobbly. In the final period, however, Mariota was excellent. He hit Darius Jennings with Logan Ryan in coverage. He had a strong throw up the right seam to Walker. He pulled one down in a collapsing pocket and took off. He zipped another to Jennings, who’s dive to collect it beat Jackson and set up the desired field goal.

The one-on-one passing period pitting receivers against corners had a twist, as each snap alternated with a pass rusher taking on an offensive lineman with Mariota dropping back. Mike Vrabel said he mixed them together for guy to have more of an audience of peers while working one-on-one, which is the core of the game. But he said he’ll need to look at it to see if there was any gain that would make it a regular or semi-regular feature.

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