Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans coach Mike Vrabel held a press conference on Tuesday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, one day after the team’s 28-14 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
This Sunday, the Titans face the New England Patriots at Nissan Stadium.
Here’s a look at some of the hot topics:
Facing Belichick and the Patriots
Vrabel talked about his respect for Belichick on Tuesday, and the impact he’s made on his career.
“I can’t deny the fact that I played there for eight years, and we had a lot of success,” Vrabel said of the Patriots. “Bill was my coach – he traded me to Kansas City, and we didn’t talk for a couple of months, maybe a year, and then we became friends and I used him as a resource when I started my coaching career and still talk to him a lot now. This week we are competitors – we are always competitors, as I am still coaching and so is he.
“.. As far as how much his philosophy is in me, I think that spending time there, there are some similarities that I believe in and you grow up as a player believing in. But we have a different personality. … I respect his friendship and respect his guidance and leadership when I played there. But now we are competitors and we have to do everything we can to try and beat the Patriots.”
The Titans, of course, have a lot of former Patriots on the team, from himself to DC Dean Pees to General Manager Jon Robinson. The roster also includes a number of former Patriots.
How much will the familiarity help? Vrabel downplayed the angle.
“There’s a lot of teams that have played these guys, and it’s not easy,” Vrabel said. “I can’t cover (Julian) Edelman, I can’t sack Tom (Brady). Dean, bless his heart, he is not going to be able to cover (Rob) Gronkowski. … We have to get our players as ready as we can for the game to get them prepared.”
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 21-of-29 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns against the Cowboys, and he also ran for a nine-yard touchdown late, as the Titans sealed it.
It was his first game without a glove on his right hand.
Vrabel said Mariota never used the elbow injury as an excuse.
“Marcus is a huge competitor, and it was good to see him make a lot of different throws,” Vrabel said. “There’s some throws still left out there he needs to make and he knows that, and there’s a lot of plays everybody out there have to make and that is what we have to strive for moving forward.”
Not a Fan
Titans safety Kevin Byard celebrated a first quarter interception by running into the middle of the star at AT&T Stadium – reminiscent of Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens and his celebration on the star 18 years ago when he played for the 49ers, against the Cowboys.
While his teammates seemed to love it, Vrabel didn’t.
“I’m not (happy), and I won’t be,” Vrabel said. “That’s not what we want as an organization, and that’s not what I want as a head coach. I want our guys to play as hard as they possibly can for each other, between the whistle, and as physical and aggressive and as clean as they possibly can.
“… Once the whistle blows, celebrate with a teammate, find somebody else in a Titans uniform. Find a coach, and celebrate with them. But we don’t need to do that. It’s not what we want to do. I’ve talked to Kevin this morning, I’ll talk to the team again tomorrow and that goes for a lot of guys. That’s not what I want, and if that’s what they want, then we see it very differently.”
Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler was in coverage on both touchdowns scored by the Cowboys on Monday night, and he’s been victimized on a number of plays this season.
Vrabel said Butler continues to work on his technique, and he needs to be consistent.
Vrabel was asked of the Titans might consider using LeShaun Sims instead of Butler, and he shot the idea down.
“I don’t think at this point and time,” Vrabel said. “I don’t think (LeShaun) is as good as Malcolm and the way he practices and where I see him going. But we’ll continue to evaluate that like we do all the positions on the roster.”
Vrabel said the team likes where Sims is in his development, and he’ll help on special teams and when used on defense. In the meantime, he’ll encourage Butler.
Running back Dion Lewis was on the field for 59 of the team’s 70 snaps on offense (84 percent) on offense, and he was productive, running for 62 yards while also catching four passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Derrick Henry, meanwhile, played just 14 snaps. Henry ran for 27 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
Vrabel said Lewis is tough to take off the field.
“The situation is we’re trying to get the guys we feel are going to help us move the football and gain yards and score touchdowns and execute plays,” Vrabel said. “There’s times where Derrick and Dion will be in there together, and there’s times when Derrick is in there. Everybody just has to make the most of their opportunities.”
Vrabel said receiver Cameron Batson made the most of his chances last night, and he’ll get more opportunities this week.
What About Fowler?
The Titans signed fullback Jalston Fowler last week, but he was inactive vs. the Cowboys.
Vrabel said the Titans will continue to work with Fowler and get him ready.
“We have to get him comfortable doing what we are going to do,” Vrabel said, “so we can find out if he can help us.”
Vrabel said right tackle Jack Conklin is in the team’s concussion protocol.
When asked about receiver Taywan Taylor and his availability for practices this week after suffering a foot injury vs the Cowboys, Vrabel said the Titans will evaluate him on Wednesday morning.
Vrabel acknowledged Titans receiver Tajae Sharpe suffered a setback in pregame warmups, but said he anticipates he’ll be ready to go on Sunday vs. New England.