Monday, June 10, 2013
Titans tapping Gregg Williams' intensity already
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans are working with a brand new attitude, talking about being aggressive and attacking.
Yes, Gregg Williams is starting to put his stamp on Tennessee.
The coach who sat out a year as penalty for his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal has been working for Titans coach Mike Munchak since February. The results are starting to show both on and off the field during the team's offseason program for a franchise trying to get back to the playoffs.
Munchak said Monday he knew all that attitude and swagger would come with bringing in Williams.
"The whole thing was to have him come here and be himself, do it his way," Munchak said. "We weren't going to mute him or anything and say, `You can't this,' or `You can't do that."
Williams' official title is senior assistant coach for defense, and he's been working with defensive coordinator Jerry Gray since being hired to fix a unit that set a franchise record allowing 471 points in 2012. Williams said helping with the attitude was one of the things Munchak asked him to do when he arrived in Nashville, though he's not sure what might have been missing last season.
Being aggressive was part of Williams' message to the Titans when he first spoke to the defense at the start of the offseason program. Williams spoke to reporters Monday for the first time since being introduced in February, saying the Titans will never apologize for competing.
"We want to be as attacking as we can on defense, and we want to be able to set the tone, who we play against at all times, so the offense can play off of that, too," Williams said. "But we'll play exactly how we have to play from a toughness standpoint, from an effort standpoint. Those were the things that we talked about doing, and everybody's going to get a chance to play."
That energy and attitude is exactly what the Titans need after giving up the most touchdowns in the NFL last season. It's also exactly the kind of language that will be watched closely from a man suspended in March 2012 after an investigation found New Orleans had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits, when Williams was defensive coordinator for the Saints.
Williams knows he will be closely watched and said he never has worried about that.
"I am just happy to have a chance to continue to do it one more time. One more time, each year ..." Williams said. "In the National Football League, it is a production business and we are all on one-year contracts. I am very, very happy I get a chance to do it with familiar people."
Munchak's experience working with Williams is what convinced the Titans coach to bring him back to Tennessee. Williams once coached Gray, and the men worked together with this franchise before Williams took Gray with him when hired as Bills head coach. They also worked together at Washington.
During the Titans' current organized team activities, Williams, who has called plays using a walkie-talkie, is busy screaming at players off to the side from the line of scrimmage. Gray, a four-time Pro Bowl cornerback as a player, also has used the walkie-talkie as he oversees practice from behind the secondary. Munchak said he expects Gray to be in the coach's box for games this season, though they may experiment again in August.
The Titans also brought in 15 free agents, including hard-hitting safety Bernard Pollard and safety George Wilson. For a defense that was near the bottom in giving up the most first downs and ranked 27th in yards allowed, it's almost like Munchak called in the cavalry to help.
"You can see it from the meeting room to outside," cornerback Alterraun Verner said of Williams. "I think he just enjoys being around the guys again. Being out a year probably made him have a new appreciation. He's hitting the ground running. He's trying to get us back to where we need to be, and that's playoff contention and we're all excited about it."
Safety Michael Griffin has heard plenty of what Williams can mean to a defense from talking to Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Williams' son, Blake, called plays for the Rams last season, and the Rams ranked 14th in total defense.
"I'm just very excited to see what he can do with this team," Griffin said.
Williams still is getting to know what all the Titans can do, and Gray has been busy drawing up packages to make use of Tennessee's talent. Cornerback Jason McCourty said they have the best of both worlds with Williams' attacking style along with Gray's schemes.
"We're going to be a way better defense this year, and I'm excited," McCourty said.
This is the Titans' final week of organized team activities before wrapping up the offseason with a minicamp next week. ... WR Justin Hunter, their second-round draft pick from Tennessee, continues to watch practice with a sore hamstring. TE Delanie Walker (knee) returned to practice after missing a week. ... New LG Andy Levitre (knee) is expected to take part in individual drills for the first time Tuesday.
Follow Teresa M. Walker on www.twitter.com/teresamwalker