Tennessee Titans fans have had Sunday, Sept. 10 circled for months now, knowing that it marks the beginning of another NFL season.
But two Titans players have a special reason to be looking forward to Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders.
Linebacker Daren Bates and safety Brynden Trawick both played for the Raiders last year, and both joined the Titans as free agents in the off-season, with an eye on helping bolster Tennessee’s special teams units. Both players will be defensive backups Sunday, but they hope to reprise for the Titans the standout special teams roles they had in Oakland the past few seasons.
Asked if Sunday’s game means a little extra because of who the opponent is, Bates did not hesitate.
“Absolutely. It can’t get any better,” he said.
The players have maintained friendships with their former teammates in Oakland, but on Sunday they will put those friendships aside for about three hours.
“I haven’t talked to them since the beginning of training camp, but hung out with a few of them in the off-season,” Bates said. “I went to Michael Crabtree’s football camp and, of course, most of the team was there. So I got to hang out with those guys. I haven’t seen them since then, but it’s going to be a great one this Sunday.
“Since we both said we were coming here, and when we knew the schedule, it’s been a waiting game and now we’re here.”
Trawick was a little more subdued in his response to playing the Raiders, but is excited to face his old team nonetheless.
“To me, it’s just game one. To us, it means a little bit more, but we’re treating it just like a regular game,” Trawick said.
The backup safety said the Raiders will give the Titans a good measuring stick as to where they stand in their quest to improve upon last year.
“It’s a great opponent. It’s the Oakland Raiders. They went to the playoffs last year and they’ll give us a good test as to where we are this year,” Trawick said.
He added that he and Bates won’t hesitate to let teammates and coaches know little nuances of the Raiders’ game that might help the Titans in certain situations.
“We’re going to give our coaches some insight into their tendencies and the personnel and things like that,” Trawick said. “But like any team, they’ve changed certain things. It’s going to be fun, though, based on our history with them.”
Bates said that catching up with old friends and enjoying the excitement of playing against his old team will be a rush at first. But then, the focus quickly goes to the task at hand.
“It’s still going to be playing football. You’ve still got to take it to them and go out and try to win,” he said “Ir’s going to be cool during warm-ups and probably kickoff and then the first couple of plays. After that, it’s on to football again. But it’s going to be fun right off the bat.”