Anticipation of NFL Draft in Nashville may be as big as draft itself

TicketsBarNASHVILLE, Tenn. – As Amy Adams Strunk said while Music City made its push to host an NFL Draft, Nashville knows how to throw a party.

It’ll be a biggie come April 25-27, 2019.DraftSign

No league has done better work making itself a year-round story. It’s quite remarkable that outside of an August-to-February preseason and season the NFL has created window after window of happenings. It’s even more noteworthy that all of them are positive, filled with hope.

The combine in late February is the first official look at draft prospects. Free-agency in March brings new talent to most teams. April’s draft was the second biggest NFL TV event to the Super Bowl in 2017. May brings rookie camps and OTAs. June brings minicamps. Only mid-June to mid-July is “dark,” and it helps build anticipation for the start of training camps.

And anticipation is the keyword in Nashville.

The uniform unveil on April 4 was a giant event, but the buildup to it was giant.

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Corey Davis' offseason work on his craft a key to Titans' receiving corps

Party Fowl Online Ads 01 1By Steve Cavendish, guest reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There’s a scene in the middle of Hoosiers where, faced with putting a player he benched back into the game, Gene Hackman’s beleaguered high school basketball coach opts to go with just four players.

“My team’s on the court,” he tells a ref.

That’s general manager Jon Robinson with this corps of wide receivers. The Titans didn't re-sign Eric Decker. And instead of drafting another receiver or adding a high-profile name through free agency, the Titans GM has opted to go with a nucleus of Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe and Corey Davis.Davis84

It’s a group that has some question marks: Sharpe is returning from a yearlong injury; Matthews posted lower numbers in 2017 than in 2016; Taylor showed bursts of talent, but caught only 16 balls in his rookie season.

And then there’s Davis, the fifth-overall pick in last year’s draft and one of the players whose improvement may determine whether or not the Titans will contend for an AFC championship.

Davis’ numbers were good for a rookie. He was tied for fifth in receptions (34) and seventh in yards (375).

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John McClain on why Mike Vrabel will be a Titans' success story

Party Fowl Online Ads 01 1By John McClain, guest columnist

The first time I heard Mike Vrabel and head coach in the same sentence was 2001 when the Bill Belichick-coached Patriots won their first Super Bowl.

As an NFL writer who covered the league for eight years after the Oilers moved to Nashville in 1997 and before I was assigned to the Texans’ beat in 2005, I spent a lot of time covering New England – regular season, playoffs and Super Bowls.

I got to know inside linebacker Ted Johnson, a seven-year veteran in 2001 who had played on Bill Parcells’ team that lost Super Bowl XXXI to Green Bay. We had a natural connection because Johnson had spent part of his childhood in Houston and was an avid Oilers’ fan.VrabelWatt

(Photo courtesy Houston Texans.)

In 2001, second-year quarterback Tom Brady – in his first season as the starter in place of the injured Drew Bledsoe – was getting a lot of well-deserved recognition, but it was the Patriots’ linebackers who were the strength of the team.

Under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, the Patriots’ linebackers were among the best groups in NFL history and would help New England win three Super Bowls.

Johnson played inside next to Tedy Bruschi. They were flanked by Willie McGinest and Vrabel. Interestingly, all but Vrabel are members of the media covering the NFL.

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Guest report: Dion Lewis blazing, Marcus Mariota sharp at Titans' OTA

Party Fowl Online Ads 01 1By Steve Cavendish, guest reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Five takeaways from the Titans' open OTA practice n May 22.

1) Newcomer Dion Lewis is as fast as advertised.

In drills and in 11-on-11 plays, the free agent from New England had a noticeable burst of speed. The running back also showed he has good hands when he sprinted out of the backfield on passing plays, catching a number of balls. He was a clear favorite of the crowd of 100-or-so season ticket holders in attendance.

2) In punt return drills, new signees Michael Campanaro and Deontay Burnett both got some work along with incumbent Adoree' Jackson.IMG 4724

Campanaro arrived as an unrestricted free agent after four years with the Ravens while Burnett went undrafted after coming out early from Southern Cal.

Burnett was expected to be drafted after catching 74 passes for 975 yards from Jets first-round pick Sam Darnold last year. With only the four draft picks available to the media so far, Burnett’s first response to a question was, “Am I supposed to be talking to you?”

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Pickers mailbag: How Titans matched up to the reputations that preceded them

pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A final mailbag post before vacation.

If you missed the Periscope from this week, here it is for your convenience.

TitansSwordGlassNow to the best questions you offered.

PK: This is a good question but it doesn't come with the sort of surprising answers I was hoping for when I began to consider it.

You have a bit of a feel for high draft picks when their names or called, and for all of them shortly after they are drafted when you have a media conference call with them. I can't think of anyone who was a giant departure from the initial impression.

As for veteran newcomers...

Randy Moss was exactly what I expected. Intentionally difficult when being asked to be interviewed or while being asked questions. Perfectly nice in passing or other standard locker room interaction.

There were other free-agents who outlived their reputation.

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Amy Adams Strunk remains a fan of Nissan Stadium, not pondering a new venue

mdi construction barNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A lot of Nashvillians and Middle Tennesseans ask me about Nissan Stadium and its future.

StadiumA surprisingly high share of people I interact with on the subject speak about their desire for a new modern marvel of a stadium, ideally with a retractable roof largely because it would almost certainly get Music City a Super Bowl.

I'm completely against a multi-billion dollar stadium, unless the Titans are buying, under any circumstance. A Super Bowl would be great, but it's hardly a sufficient tradeoff.

We see two retractable roof stadiums in the AFC South, and they are absolutely unneeded luxuries in Houston and Indianapolis. Nashville is a perfect city for outdoor football, on grass.

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A small example of Mike Vrabel allowing a good thought to trickle up from an assistant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After the second of three weekend practices for his rookies, Mike Vrabel fielded a question about the anxieties of young players in such situations.IMG 8806

I was struck by one piece of his response on the topic.

Typically, things from strong-willed, alpha coaches – which is certainly what Vrabel appears to be in the early stages of his first head job – trickle down.

That coach would be the tone-setter and the message-sender, dispersing the key themes and expecting them to travel down the chain.

When I was at ESPN, bigger bosses would often deliver their message and instruct subordinates to “cascade” them to their people.

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Returning Preds can't ignore big issues that held them back

Party Fowl Online Ads 01 1By John Glennon, guest columnist

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There's an understandable belief among Predators faithful that next season's team should be as good or better than this year's was.

But Predators players shouldn't let themselves believe that – not yet, anyway.PredsBricks

Because one of the few concerns they face is realizing that past achievements don't automatically guarantee future success.

It's one thing for fans to look ahead with optimism, based on the enviable way Predators general manager David Poile has constructed this club. Consider the following highlights:

  • Nineteen players from the 2016-17 Presidents' Trophy team that rang up a franchise-record 117 points are already under contract for next season, including the team's top 13 point producers and its starting goalie.
  • Three more players – goalie Juuse Saros, along with forwards Ryan Hartman and Miikka Salomaki – are merely restricted free agents, meaning the Predators retain their rights and will have them under contract for next season. So the only three players who for sure won't be returning next season are Mike Fisher, Scott Hartnell and Alexei Emelin. Fisher is retiring (for real this time), and neither Hartnell nor Emelin fit into the club's future plans.
  • In addition, a whopping 21 of the Preds' current players are age 30 or younger, meaning most are either in the midst of their prime or just entering into it.
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