- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some quick thoughts on Tennessee's opening practice of training camp, before a run to the airport.
With Matt Hasselbeck looking on, unable to practice until Thursday, Jake Locker worked as the starting quarterback. He had a several very shaky throws before the defense was even part of things -- a short ball to the left that sailed well over Lavelle Hawkins, a short pass wobbled over the middle that may have slipped out of his hand, a high deep ball that amounted to a punt Jared Cook had to wait on. But he settled down as the practice went on and didn’t look out of place.
Kenny Britt didn’t practice. He ran in the morning and the team is being careful early with a guy who had a hamstring issue last season. He looks to be fit, thin even.
Without Britt, Nate Washington and Justin Gage worked as the starting receivers with things rotating quickly. Joe Tronzo was the fullback leading Javon Ringer. Fernando Velasco plugged into Leroy Harris’ left guard slot. (Jim Wyatt broke the news during practice that Harris agreed to return with a two-year deal.)
The starting defensive line, left to right, was William Hayes, Jovan Haye, Jurrell Casey and Jason Jones. Will Witherspoon was a middle linebacker between Akeem Ayers and Gerald McRath. Alterraun Verner was at corner opposite Cortland Finnegan.
While Ayers is bigger than any Titans linebacker in memory, the most impressive size was in free agent defensive tackle Shaun Smith (325), who can't yet practice, and Haye. Haye played last year at 275 and told me he’s now 312, heaviest in his life. He feels way more powerful. Protein shakes, his wife’s cooking and heavy weights helped him bulk up to line up with the new staff’s emphasis on size. He’s benched 405 when he never topped 315 before.
Chris Hope was here and at strong safety. He was due a $500,000 roster bonus Friday and there has been no news of a restructured deal. That means he got it and isn’t going anywhere unless something big changes between now and opening day.
The coaches are a vocal bunch. Two of note I didn’t hear were offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews. No surprise there. McRath dropped a tipped ball for a pick and linebackers coach Frank Bush told him: “Don’t be afraid to be a hero. All they’re going to do is put your name in the paper.”
Receiver coach Dave Ragone drilled the first pass of one positional drill into the facemask shield of Nate Washington. He warned that balls would be on guys fast out of their breaks, but this bullet may have been too fast and too early for Jerry Rice. Washington had to wipe down the shield before getting into back into line.
The Titans voted to reconstitute the NFLPA.