NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It’s the big twist for guys who were good college players and might be good NFL players.
In order to get the chance to be a good NFL player on offense or defense, they have to be a good NFL special-teamer. And it’s tough to be a good NFL special-teamer when you didn’t play special teams in college because you were a good player on offense or defense.
Are you with me?
The Titans have several guys on the fringe who could make or miss the roster based on special teams, and Jeff Fisher pointed to two as facing this very dilemma -- fifth-round safety Robert Johnson and undrafted running back LeGarrette Blount.
“It’s difficult, and that’s oftentimes the case at other positions as well,” Fisher said. “You’ll have a linebacker who may be covered kicks his redshirt freshman year and have not since. Robert Johnson didn’t play any special teams. It’s hard. You have to learn.”
Johnson, who the Titans think can be a good safety down the road, and Blount, who they like as a big back, won’t get the chance to be those things later if they cannot be effective special-teamers now.
“You’ve got to understand that you’ve got to play your role,” Johnson said. “Most rookies, unless you are a first-round pick, are not going to come in and start. ... Being uneducated about the special teams aspect is a confusing thing, but I’m just going to go out there and play whatever they ask me to play.”
Currently, Johnson is on the first kickoff unit, the second kickoff return team, the second punt return group and the second punt unit. He said he feels like he’s gotten a whole lot better, with the help of the Titans long-term special-teams ace Donnie Nickey.
It’s Johnson’s first special-teams work since he played on the kickoff team as a sophomore at Utah and then was often a just-in-case backup.
“I was always open to it and coming here, I have to be open to it,” he said. “This is my job, there is no ‘I don’t really want to do it.’ I’m going to play whatever they need me to play as long as they keep paying me and keeping me in the organization.”