New Tennessee Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro had been waiting for six months for the right opportunity to return to the NFL.
Vaccaro believes he has found that opportunity, signing a one-year deal with the Titans on Saturday to essentially and eventually replace injured Johnathan Cyprien at strong safety.
“This has been a long time coming for me. I was waiting on the right opportunity. I was fortunate that one opened up here and that we could get a deal done. I’m ready to work,” Vaccaro said.
Vaccaro, 27, a former first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints, said it was tough being away from football and that he has some catching up to do to get ready for the season.
“It’s hard, because I’m a competitive dude. I enjoy that grind. I enjoy building that foundation in OTAs with my teammates,” Vaccaro said. “It’s hard to come out here with all these guys grinding together. They know each other’s names. They know each others’ families and wives, kids and children. Really not knowing anything about anybody, I’ve got to catch up quick and earn their respect. The first thing I want to do when I get on a new team is to earn the respect of the locker room.”
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Vaccaro had a great workout on Friday, showing the team what they wanted to see from him.
“I think he had a great workout. That was an impressive safety workout that we had. They did a great job, all those guys that were able to come in. So what we expect is that he’s a pro, and he comes in and learns what to do quickly. We’ll work him in there and see where he can help us. He’s made plays in the National Football League, and it seems like he’s starting off with a great attitude,” Vrabel said. “He’s got a unique skill set. He’s got good size, good speed and he had a great workout. There were times I think last year that he didn’t look like himself from early on in his career when he was a first-rounder, but we were excited to see him to the things we asked from him in the workout. He’s already started studying.”
That means getting up to speed enough to get some snaps in Thursday night’s preseason opener at Green Bay.
“That would be the plan. You sign guys in the preseason to play them and get them going. We would certainly love to get him ready to be out there and be able to help us on the field to help us in some capacity Thursday night,” Vrabel said.
That means being a quick study for Vaccaro.
“I’m going to stay in my playbook day and night. I’m going straight back to the hotel from here and get in it. We’ve got an off day tomorrow. I’m going to read my playbook and I should be ready to go,” Vaccaro said.
In signing Vaccaro and Jason Thompson to bolster the safety position, the Titans passed on Lardarius Webb and Mike Mitchell, both of whom worked out on Friday. The Titans were supposed to work out former 49ers safety Eric Reid, but his flight was cancelled due to bad weather, and the Titans decided not to wait until he rescheduled. Reid has been surrounded by controversy from being an anthem kneeler in San Francisco, and for joining Colin Kaepernick’s collusion lawsuit against the league for not being signed.
“I’ll let Eric speak for himself and his agent, and Jon handle that. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see him. So that’s really all I can comment on. I’ll let Eric and his camp comment, and I’ll let Jon take care of it on our end,” Vrabel said of the Reid situation with the Titans.
Vaccaro, who is friends with Reid and got to know him as they came out in the draft together, said the veteran safety should be on an NFL roster.
“He should be on a team,” Vaccaro said. “There’s no doubt about it He’s a great man. He’s a good family man, and a great dude. He needs to be on a team. He’ll get on a team. I believe in him.”