NASHVILLE, Tenn. – At the start of his 14th year with the Titans, Brett Kern may be facing the most serious fight for a roster spot of his Tennessee time.

After a season where his coach questioned his performance a few times, starting at halftime of a preseason game, the Titans found a quality undrafted rookie to challenge for the punting spot in camp in Colorado State’s Ryan Stonehouse.

Kern

Mike Vrabel sold it as just another competition in a camp full of them.

But it’s not.

Kern is the senior-most Titan by five years. And for years and years he’s been a staple of the team, a reliable boomer who would get it out of field-position trouble.

Last year the Titans netted 39.78 yards per punt, ranking 21st in the NFL. That’s the best judge of a punter and his coverage unit. Kern was 23rd in the league with a 44.8-yard average.

Unsatisfied, he made some offseason changes that he feels have him poised to be more consistent.

KernStretch“I made a big diet change just to help out as I’m getting older,” said Kern, 36. “No dairy, no gluten and no caffeine. I just took out the top three inflammatories. I’m seeing some more people outside the building just to help me with inflammation and soreness and all that kind of stuff.”

He started that in April and said he feels great since then.

That’s made him able to increase his workload to levels he’s not reached in recent years.

He has 40- or 50-punt sessions once or twice a week now as compared to 20- or 25-punt sets last season. (In season, he punts in Wednesday and Thursday practices in addition to games.)

That may help him regain his consistency.

“I had some technique issues that I could usually kind of fix during the week and for some reason last year they kind of carried over to games more,” he said. “But I think a lot of that was how I was feeling body-wise and recovery was really hard for me. I just had to make some changes and get back at it – a little more stretching, body work, the diet. I think the combination of everything had helped out.”

He missed two games with a groin injury and one on the Covid list, and he said his layoff from the virus wasn’t good as fatigue lingered for a month or two on his bad days.

In March, he agreed to take about $1 million less on the final year of his 2022 salary. He’s now due $2.1 million, with $900,000 guaranteed. If Stonehouse wins the job, between his salary and Kern’s dead money, the Titans would save just under $500,000.

Kern is a fan of his competitor.

“He’s a good kid, he’s got a lot of talent, “Kern said. “He can pound a football. I’m just trying to help him out a little bit here and there, just some of the smaller things. Give him whatever wisdom I can give him after all this time. It’s fun to watch him kick a football.”

At Colorado State, Stonehouse set an NCAA record with a 46.8-yard career average.

“There are a lot of things that I’m tinkering with,” he said. “Overall it’s just building that consistency and making every rep the same.”

The Titans have not asked him to make any mechanical adjustments, simply refining his game and he and Kern work side by side. He said he finds it encouraging that the staff lets him do his thing and then may ask what he thinks about this or that.

“I love that kind of coaching where it’s kind of a give and take and you communicate between the two,” he said. “…This is such a great atmosphere being around here, I don’t think that I could have landed in a better spot. It’s been awesome being here right now.”

Kern is a huge link to the Titans' past. He played for Jeff Fisher.

It'd be nice to maintain that and get great field position, but he knows if Stonehouse is better sentiment won't mean a thing.

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