Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson held press conferences via Zoom on Thursday as it marked the end of the team’s off-season program.
Obviously with players not permitted back in the building for workouts, this off-season was quite a bit different from any other previous one either had been involved in.
Both Robinson and Vrabel discussed a variety of topics. Here is a rundown of some of their key comments.
Derrick Henry contract talks
Robinson was asked about franchised running back Derrick Henry and where things stand in terms of a possible long-term deal.
“We’ve had a phone call last week, had a phone call the week before that. Just kind of continue to work through things, I think the conversations have been positive between me and the reps there,” Robinson said. “Again, just trying to find some common ground. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, Derrick is an important part of what we do. Just trying to find the spot where we all need to be, where we all want to be.”
Clowney door still open
Robinson also spoke about the Titans’ interest in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who remains the top free agent on the market. Nothing is imminent with Clowney in Tennessee, but the Titans have not said no to bringing him on board.
“There was some mutual interest there when we started the discussions, but I would say that it really hasn’t grown any legs since we spoke last,” Robinson said.
Bowen to take bigger role
All off-season, one of the bigger topics regarding the Titans defense is who will serve as the play-caller on defense. Could it be Vrabel taking a bigger role? That would appear to be the case, but with his head coaching duties, obviously he cannot pay full attention to the defense. When Vrabel is not available for the defense, he said outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen would be front and center.
“I’ve told the defense that Shane Bowen is going to help me and is going to be the voice in there when I’m not there. So, Shane (Bowen) and I, we’ll figure out how we’re going to proceed going forward,” Vrabel said. “I love where we’re at right now and our communication, and how we’ve been able to approach these meetings and organize. When we get to the next step, then we’ll figure out what we’re going to do from there.”
That does now, however, necessarily mean that Bowen will be the play-caller of the Titans defense.
“If I’m not in the meeting, if I’m going to be in the offensive line room, somebody is going to probably have to talk to the defense. I’m going to continue to be the head coach, and so I’m going to continue to try to be in the special teams meetings and I’m going to continue to try to be in the offensive meetings and I think I can provide input,” Vrabel said. “Again, I trust our staff on all levels. If I for whatever reason am not in the defensive meeting room while the entire defense is meeting, Shane would be the one that would probably be talking to them along with some other coaches if we were making presentations on ball disruption or third down. Again, that’s kind of where we’re at.
“As far as having three or four signal callers based on a down and distance, or if it’s third or fourth down or run, we’re going to have one call. I’m not really sure who’s going to make that call right now, just like there were times where I wanted things called and let Dean (Pees) know, and there were times that Dean made the call. There’s going to be one call that goes into the huddle and it’s going to be the one that we think is going to give the players the best chance to be successful.
Clarifying Casey trade
Earlier in the week, former Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said the Titans threw him away “like a piece of trash” when he visited the McCourty Twins Podcast and discussed the deal.
Robinson was asked about those remarks Thursday and said the deal was difficult, but one that he felt made the team better by providing cap relief.
“Jurrell was drafted here, been a Pro Bowler here, been a leader here. He’s an outstanding person and he’s a heck of a football player. The decision that we make here, they’re never personal,” Robinson said. “They just aren’t. They have to be what’s in the best interest of the football team and that was one of those hard decisions that I had to make, that wasn’t an easy one, but it’s one that I felt, and we felt, was best for our football team.”
Davis option discussed
In terms of not picking up Corey Davis’ fifth-year option, Robinson said the wide receiver was extremely professional about it and is motivated and excited to work with his teammates this year.
“It was good, it’s real conversation. I try to have as transparent a conversation as possible with all our players and talked about the monetary commitment that is, and hopefully he goes out and has a good year for us and we can figure something out,” Robinson said. “I am charged to make those hard decisions, to manage salaries of a roster and make sure it all fits. Plan, certainly for this year, but for future years as well. A lot of those decisions aren’t easy but that’s what I’m charged to do. At the end of the day I have to do what I think is best for the football team. I love him personally, I love the way he’s grown as a person, as a player and I want him to go out and have a good year.”
Fundamentals and conditioning
Vrabel emphasized that fundamentals and conditioning will be priorities for the players during the off time before training camp, which could begin a little earlier this year due to no normal off-season.
“Guys have trainers, everybody has somewhere that they go, they have a routine. I’m confident that they’ll do that, but we’ll also still make sure that we have an evaluation of them from a fitness level and a conditioning level. We’d also track body weights for nine weeks. We also said, ‘Hey, watching you move around this is where you’re at,’ and it wasn’t an official weigh-in but we could monitor that, and see where we thought their ideal or optimal body weight, playing weight was. We’ll have to continue to monitor that when they get back here. Make sure that’s something that’s the best for them and best for the team,” Vrabel said. “Then, you mentioned that the fundamentals, I can’t say enough. It’s my charge to make sure that we’re a fundamental football team, that we’re using the proper fundamentals so that we avoid penalties during the play, but it also allows us to do our job because the talent level is so close week in and week out, that technique sometimes is going to be the determining factor in whether somebody does their job or somebody has an advantage.”