TITANS HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on if he thought the outcome of the game showed a gap between the two teams)
I think it just shows you, I mean, I think we are disappointed obviously how the game ended turning out. I think we are happy how it started with the offense taking the ball, making plays. Unfortunately (we got) three points rather than seven, and then when you play a good football team as we knew the Patriots are, as they have been for quite a few years now, you cannot not mistakes. You canít blow opportunities. When youíre down there, you have to score points, and you canít have a turnover and give them a touchdown, things like that, that are going to come back to haunt you in a game.
They are going to make plays. They are going to make their share of plays which we knew, we just couldnít help them, and unfortunately along the way, we helped them. They ran the ball much better than we thought they would against us, which makes it easier for their quarterback. So, yeah I think overall, disappointed.
As far as measuring gaps, I donít know. When you donít play well, again, like I said itís a loss and I donít think itís necessarily how far apart we are. Itís just a matter that it just shows you that you canít afford to make mistakes, and itís all about making plays.
(on Jake Lockerís performance)
I thought he handled himself well. I thought he came out and made some great throws early in the game. The turnover deal was a sack and a fumble. You wish those things donít happen, which ended up being seven points. The kid threw well. Heís so competitive. He was fun to watch.† If it wasnít for the injury, he probably finishes up with a very strong football game.
(on Jake Lockerís shoulder injury)
He should be OK. We would rather him not go in there and tackle anybody. But he did because he is so competitive, I guess. But he wanted to go back in. It is his non-throwing shoulder. We just thought at that point we wanted to be sure he got checked out before we did something like that. And the way the game was at that point, we thought we would pull him out, which we did. Assuming that he will get checked out (Monday), he should be OK for next week.
(on the whistle not being blown on what proved to be incomplete pass to Nate Washington)
I donít think it matters who the officials are as far as replacement, regular officials. I think there were some calls in that game that obviously we werenít happy with. You know, you wish obviously that a whistle was blown there that the ball wasnít completed. It didnít happen and leads the something else. You can go through the game in a lot ways, things that we missed that were unfortunate and change games around. Thatís the disappointing thing about the game in general, when you have things you think are missed in the first series, going down and scoring. I thought there were call their probably missed. Itís hard enough. Itís just frustrating when things donít get called that probably should.
(on teamís rushing game)
I thought coming in, obviously we thought (Chris Jonhson) would have more than 12 or 13 carries, whatever he ended up having. There is no doubt, again, we knew they were coming in, they were going to make sure he didnít get going the best they could, I would think. They did a good job with that. As far as some of the runs we had, they werenít as successful as we hoped. We saw we were having success throwing the ball and Jake (Locker) was getting the feel for it. The receivers were doing some good things, so obviously we leaned more in that direction, and I think that is why his numbers werenít large.
(on holding call on G Steve Hutchinson)
Yeah, thatís my point. You canít do those things against these types of teams. The Patriots are a great football team, thatís a huge play of the game, on a draw for first down, itís field position, itís all kinds of things and we get the call and after that we punt and (they) score points on that drive. So, thatís how quickly a game Ö you talk about a gap, a team with the scoreboard the gap got bigger obviously, but those are the things that good teams donít do and right now, weíre making plays like that, that hurt you, a holding call here, a turnover for a touchdown, a pick, a missed tackle, those are the things right now that they exploited, the mistakes we made. They didnít make many mistakes; they didnít turn the ball over, they didnít do some of the things we did, have crucial penalties that hurt them like we did. Thatís what the separation is, is us consistently getting better and making plays and not helping the other team, and thatís kind of where the gap is right now.
(on defensive playersí execution)
I think it was missed tackles. They ran the ball better than they shouldíve been able to. That usually is all we talk about them running the football and made (Tom) Bradyís job obviously a lot easier when they were having success running the ball on the edges and making plays when they needed to.† It was disappointing to see that, thereís no doubt and I know the players are disappointed, you want to play better in key spots.† We got some stops but notÖwhen we tried to get back in the game in the second half, we couldnít get stops where we needed them. They were having success, and again, they make plays and they make tough catches and give them credit for that. Thatís a very good football team, theyíve got some very good football players and they converted a lot.† Our defense did a nice job on first and second down quite a few times, and they made some great catches and great throws on third down to keep drives going. We couldíve had a chance to change that game and credit to them. They played well, better than we did and you saw the outcome.
(on todayís performance going into the rest of season )
I think you† just look at it that itís one football game. Like you say, thereís no doubt you want to win every game when you play but 15 other teams are going to lose today also unfortunately. Itís how you handle what happens, how are we going to handle this one going forward, to how we take this to San Diego and decide whatís going to happen there.† Disappointing? Definitely. Do you want to play better, especially at home? Yes we do. Were there parts that we looked like we were doing some good things? Yes, thereís a lot of good things in this football game, but not enough good things. So thatís the part, that again, you watched the tape and you find out what kind of team you are. You find out how you handle some adversity.† Unfortunately weíre getting some in the first game. You donít win your first game, thereís adversity to some of the things, thereís going to be some things that we obviously can do better, that could have made this game much closer and more competitive towards the end. We didnít do that, we had some opportunities to do that and like I said, they made the plays and we didnít.
Weíll see. (Colin) McCarthy had the ankle, came back in, went back out, so weíll need to see exactly where he is and how sore he is after playing the game. Nate (Washington) got the play ó that the non-catch that they thought was a fumble ó and got his leg hit there and I think heís sore, but again, weíll have to wait and see how he is tomorrow. (Javon Ringerís) elbow I think was sore during the week, obviously we didnít think it was a big deal, I think it gradually got a little worse and started swelling last night on him. Then this morning, it swelled up pretty good, so it could be some type of infection, so obviously he couldnít play with that. Thatís kind of something that happened unexpectedly and again, we assume heíll be OK going forward but not able to play in the game.
(on turnovers by QB Jake Locker)
Yeah, I think that making a decision to throw the ball deep on the one again, we were moving there right about midfield, until you go back and see what he was really thinking when he threw the ball, you hoped that we couldíve roped that ball up. Heís trying to make a play there, itís just off the drive. Thatís another spot where if that doesnít happen maybe again we have a chance to go down there and score points. The other one again, heís holding it, trying to make a play, gets hit and loses the ball. We should protect a little better so that doesnít happen or the time clock should roll off in his mind and run or get rid of that ball, especially when youíre down there around the goal-line area where something bad can happen if you do get captured Ė a safety, a sack, a fumble, and unfortunately we gave them a gift that we couldnít afford to do in the game, at that time itís 7-3. Itís a whole different ball game when you give up seven points to a very good football team. There are things that those couple of plays we just talked about really make a difference in a game. Those are things heíll, as far as what he can do to prevent them, yeah, I think the more you do things, you can be a 14-year vet and do the same exact things he did though. You watch games today with a quarterback that have been around for a long time make the same throws and try to make plays. Thatís just how quarterbacks are, theyíre competitive, theyíre trying to make plays all the time, they donít want to take the check down sometimes and they learn from it. The more he plays, the better heíll get at it. We are very proud of how he played. I thought he made some great throws on the run, moving in the pocket, buying some time, you saw his legs, all things that you should be really excited about going forward.
(on Jake Locker starting next week)
Yeah, Iím hoping that the injury is not something that would keep him out. I know how competitive he is, so itís probably going to be hard to keep him out. It was hard to keep him out the game in the fourth quarter when he wanted to come back in. Yeah, we are hoping for the best obviously, weíre hoping he should be OK.
TITANS QB JAKE LOCKER
(on the shoulder injury)
It just got banged up a little bit, but it was something that I felt like I could go back into the game. I will get some treatment on it and feel good about being able to play Sunday.
(on coming back into the game)
I felt like I could go back in and I let them know that. The medical staff made the decision they did.
(on if they told him that he was not supposed to make tackles)
Nobody told me that. I thought it was football.
(on getting off to a good start)
I think that obviously, getting seven is a better start at that point. We moved the ball, sustained the drive and had a chance to put seven points on the board. It was a good way to start the game. Itís why we took the ball first and what we wanted to do with it.
(on his two turnovers)
The first one was a bad decision. They were just in a soft coverage. I shouldnít have thrown it. The fumble, I have to take better care of the ball in the pocket.
(on how this game compares to his previous NFL experience)
It was different from the standpoint of knowing you were going to be playing going in. The preparation stayed very similar to what itís been in the past. Overall, I thought that we were able to execute offensively and move the ball.
(on his frustration of not being able to get the running game going and having to pass more in the second half)
It was what was working for us and I think that week-in and week-out that changes. We were able to move the ball a couple of drives early in the second half. We obviously got the scoring drive and we were able to do that through the air. Itís just what was working for us today.
(on the offense not being able to run the ball)
I think that you guys know as well as I do, itís always easier when you are two dimensional. It makes them respect that for sure. We did a good job of adjusting and finding ways to continue to move the ball.
(on if the shoulder injury will require a brace)
Itís really early and itís hard to tell. I will just get some treatment throughout the week and make that decision closer to Sunday.
†(on if itís a shoulder bruise more than structural damage)
Yeah, donít say anything like that.
(on if it bothers him that the play he was injured on never should have happened)
Again, thatís not something that I can control. The play went on as it did. I played it out as if it was live. Looking back on it, unfortunately, it was an incomplete pass. Just because of the circumstances, itís tough, but you canít control that.
(on if he wonít go to make a tackle next time there is a defensive return)
Like I said, itís the game of football. I know that I play on offense, but Iím not going to let a guy run into the end zone.
(on the touchdown pass to Nate Washington)
We were on the other side of the ball to start, but we didnít get what we wanted over there. I felt a little pressure so I was just trying to get outside of the pocket and I saw Nate (Washington) kind of slip in behind him. It was kind of a dangerous throw, I guess, but it ended up working out for us.
(on the two no-calls of pass interference on the Patriots)
Thatís not something that we can control. We had opportunities down in the red zone and we didnít take advantage of them and didnít find ways to score. You canít count on that.
(on the play that he checked to on the fourth-and-one conversion)
We just didnít have what I thought was going to give us a chance to get that first down. They stacked everybody on the line of scrimmage and we had one-on-one coverage. I thought at that point it was our best shot. We got into a play that gave us that opportunity and we were able to convert on it.
(on what Kendall Wright brought to the offense)
I have said it before, he is a difference maker when the ball is in his hands. He caught a lot of underneath routes where he had the opportunity to run with it after he caught it, and thatís where he is dangerous. Thatís what he was really able to help us with today.
(on if a game like this shows him that the Titans have a long way to go before they are on the level of the Patriots)
I havenít had an opportunity to look at the film. Reliving it, I felt like we moved the ball on offense well today. We just have to find ways to put more points on the board. That will be our focus going forward, I believe.
TITANS RB CHRIS JOHNSON
(on having a tough day at running back)
Yes, tough day ó especially after the first week of the season. We were trying to make some plays and trying to get a victory. We had some nice catches and things like that, but overall, a tough day.
(on what New England was doing that made it hard to execute)
I canít say what they were doing, but we didnít execute as a team. On the chances earlier in the game where we tried to run the ball, we just didnít execute basically.
TITANS WR† NATE WASHINGTON
(on the overall offensive summary plan when playing the Patriots)
You canít turn the ball over and you have to get touchdowns. Of course, against a team like this, you have to make sure you are putting up points. Of course, they are going to make some plays. Unfortunately today, we came up short. You have to do a better job offensively to put some points on the board. This is not what we worked for all training camp. We were looking for a little better performance than we gave today.
(on Jake Lockerís first start at quarterback)
He did a good job. Of course, heís a young guy so heís going to learn some things from this and get better. But, I think he did a pretty good job all around. From now on, we have to make sure weíre making the plays for him. I think there were a couple of times we could have made some plays for him and we didnít. So we have to make sure we are accountable for him.
TITANS QB MATT HASSELBECK
(on coming in later in the game)
Thatís the nature of the job. Youíve got to be ready and be loose and ready to go. I kind of knew what the fourth-and-one call was going to be. It was a rollout. So I tried to get loose as I could, without giving it away. But CJ (Chris Johnson) made a nice play on that one. It felt good to kind of get in and get a rhythm and stuff. Iím disappointed we didnít get more points, and score and win and all that stuff.
(on the Titans effort to make a comeback against the Patriots.)
I think that the lesson for us, really for all of us, when one of your guys, one of your good friends goes down, youíve just got to re-focus and make it happen. We had a number of guys go down Ö Youíve got to re-focus and you canít let it deflate you at all.† Youíve got to execute and make plays and score touchdowns. The effort was great. Weíre just playing one of the best teams in the world, and you canít do the things that we did. They didnít turn it over, and we did. They ran the ball, and we didnít. All the things Coach Munchak says in the locker room ó weíre not inventing anything new. Itís just the things we did today against a great team.
TITANS DT JURRELL CASEY
(on Titans defensive efforts today)
I donít know what the deal was up front. We didnít get to the quarterback enough. We had to get there faster and give our corners some time. Keep him from getting comfortable back there and not let him stretch out. Next week, thatís something weíve got to work on ó getting to that quarterback. We knew they were going to come out in a fast tempo. We practiced on it all week.† Nobody was really tired. Just missed hitting gaps on the run, and not getting pressure on the quarterback in the pass. We missed hitting gaps, and they were executing. Thatís it.
TITANS S† JORDAN BABINEAUX
(on the Patriots throwing so much to their tight ends)
The challenge was there for us. Itís really hard to say what kind of coverage we playing against those guys. Half the time I was anticipating one to be in the game. We had a great understanding of what these guys like to do offensively. Itís not like we didnít know our opponent today. We just didnít do a good enough job of out-executing what they like to do, compared to what we were playing defensively. Itís kind of tough right now, because Iím kind of lost for words. I guess personally and obviously, I wish I had more opportunities to be out there and be a better contribution.
(on losing against a quality team like New England)
I donít care. It doesnít matter. The thing is, too, is we get caught up so much about worrying about our opponent and really, the only thing that matters is us. As long as weíre executing our checks, and able to play the type of technique the defense calls for, it doesnít matter who we play.
TITANS CB† ALTERRAUN VERNER
(on the Patriots completing big plays against the Titans defense.)
I mean, they are a good team. They went to the Super Bowl, and so we knew they had that capability. And we knew we just couldnít get down on ourselves when things like that happened. There were a couple of times they did make those plays and we held them to a field goal, or we stopped them the next three downs. So there were a couple of times we did make some stands and there were a couple of times they made some plays on us. Overall, we did what we could. We tried our best against a very good team, and like Iíve said, weíre going to look at it, weíre going to get better and, you know, the rest is going to be uphill for us.
PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Quite a good win by our players.† Those guys did a really good job.† We did a good job running the ball offensively, did a decent job stopping the run defensively, made some big plays, turned the ball over and had good field position, so it was a good team win. All three units contributed.† We had a lot of guys step up and if we can play that way we will be alright but it was good to see everyone contribute and all the units do a good job for us.† Itís nice to get off to a good start but we have got a long way to go.
(on Stevan Ridleyís running today )
Of course it always starts up front. The offensive line did a good job.† We had some good holes, the backs ran hard.† Stevan (Ridley) ran hard, broke some tackles. Our tight ends, our offensive line and our receivers blocked so it was good.† A good complimentary game.† We had good balance offensively.
(on the play of rookies, especially Chandler Jones and Tavon Wilson in their first professional game )
We will see how it looks on the film.† Iím sure they had some good plays and Iím sure that had some other plays that werenít so great.† We will see how it goes. They have a long way to go. They both have done a good job for us and if they keep working hard I think they will have a chance to be good players.
(on the defenseís performance )
We didnít give up a lot of points.† We had a couple of red area stops, and that was important.† We gave up that drive at the start of the third quarter which was well and good but otherwise we were able to keep them out of the end zone. That was positive.† Itís hard to win in this league kicking field goals.† If we can play good red zone defense and not give up big plays then we shouldnít be giving up a lot of points.
(on big plays by the defense)
Those were big.† We had a couple other ones that we could have had.† We didnít hang on to the ball or whatever. That was a good play. Kyle (Arrington) went up and made a play on the ball, and Tavon (Wilson) was there to get it and of course we had Chandler Jones with the strip sack and fumble recovery so that was a huge play in the game. Those seven point swings, defensive scores, are always enormous plays in the National Football League. When you get bonus points like that it normally tips the scale, good team defense.
PATRIOTS TE ROB GRONKOWSKI
(on if todayís game was a good way to start out the 2012 NFL Season)
Oh yeah, definitely.† You always want to start out with a win, thatís always a great way to start and the Tennessee Titans are a good teamóit was a good, hard fought battle out there.
(on using a lot of different offensive formations today)††
Coaches ó whatever they call, weíve got to go out there and do our job.† Whatever the coachesí call weíre running the ball, weíre passing the ball, we had a balanced attack and thatís always good.† You want to be able to have the run game, you want to be able to have the pass game and today we preformed pretty well in both.
(on how Patriots RB Stevan Ridley performed today)
He had a great game, he was running hard and the o-lineman were doing a great job ó you have to give them credit too.† Just overall, it was a good game and we have a lot to improve on still, a lot of mistakes and thatís what this practice week is for to fix your errors and move forward.
(on his miscue on his touchdown spike)
The thing slipped right out, but I played it off pretty well.
(on the performance both he and TE Aaron Hernandez had today)
Heís just a great player.† I love playing with him.† Overall, as an offense as a whole everyone is a great player and if everyone is doing their job and weíre clicking we can accomplish everything.† We just have to be out there with everyone doing their own job and having good chemistry.
PATRIOTS RB STEVAN RIDLEY
(on his performance today)
Personally, it was a blessing to be out there on a Sunday and Iím just very thankful to start the game off with a good game.† The offensive line is doing a tremendous job up front, coach had the game plan and told us what it was going to be and how we were going to be able to run the ball effectively and we just kept it pretty simple during the week.† He just told us to go out there and do our job, so thatís what I did, I just did my job.† If there was green grass to run to I just tried to hit it hard and get downhill.
(on if he was Ďin the zoneí today)††
When you get days like today and youíre running the ball well you can definitely feel it.† There were some runs that were there and there were some that werenít.† The coaches just did an exceptional job of finding the ones that were doing well and they just kept calling them until they stopped them.† The offensive line was just blocking and getting on people and there were bodies on bodies and I just had to hit my creases and run.† I didnít do anything out of the ordinary, I was just the player that I was and went out there and played ball.
(on the offense being able to pass the ball effectively out of obvious run formations)
Yeah, Coach (Offensive Coordinator Josh) McDaniels did a good job of mixing that up.† We donít want to be out there and be predictable, so all of our backs can run and all of our backs can catch so if theyíre going to try and game plan it that way they might have a long year ahead of them.† Weíre going to do a good job of changing it up and just trying to be a well-rounded offense.
(on it being a while since heís shouldered the load as a running back)
Of course, itís a dream come true to be out there playing on Sunday ó like I said, Iím very blessed.† To just get out there and play is all I want to do. †25 carries is more than I was expecting, but Iím okay and I came out of the game injury free so thatís all I can ask for ó Iím just grateful my teammates were out there doing a great job for me.
PATRIOTS TE AARON HERNANDEZ
(on how they opened the 2012 regular season)
I thought we started better than the past two years that Iíve been here.† Good start, a lot to learn from and we have to get better every week.
(on the Patriots passing game today)††
I felt like we did a great job, and like I said we have to keep improving ó run game, pass game and get more dangerous every week.
(on how the teamís success running the ball helped the passing game today)
A lot because itís a lot more the defense has to worry about.† When you have no running game all theyíre worried about is the pass.† (Patriots RB Stevan) Ridley did a good job today and hopefully he keeps playing like that, and the line keeps doing what theyíre doing so we can have an effective year.
(on how offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels did calling plays today)
Heís a great OC and I love playing for him and itís going to be a good year with him.
(on if he gave Rob Gronkowski any grief over botching his touchdown spike)
No, that will be something we laugh about, but it was a great catch, great throw and we have to keep making plays.
PATRIOTS LT NATE SOLDER
(on what happened on the sack that hurt Tom Bradyís nose)
I think he got flushed and (Titans DE Kamerion Wimbley) ran him down from the back and I donít know exactly what else happened.† Iíll have to see on film.
(on the offensive line opening up some big holes for the Patriots run game)††
I think there were some good things, definitely, and we can build off of that ó and improve the bad things too.
I thought our run game was successful at times, and we were protecting pretty well most of the time, so as long as we keep getting better weíll be alright.
(on why the offensive line did such a better job today than they had done in the preseason)
Itís hard to say, I donít know ó youíll have to ask the coaches.† I think itís a work in progress. Weíll keep getting better and working to improve.
PATRIOTS QB TOM BRADY
Itís not my usual look (laughs).† Actually that was the only good one I really took so ó I think the offensive line played really well.† It was a relatively clean game in terms of penalties and turnovers and so forth.† It wasnít perfect by any stretch, but itís always fun winning so that was a good feeling.
(on missing WR Brandon Lloyd on the first drive of the game when he was behind the Titansí defense)
Yeah, we were close ó when theyíre that open you donít want to miss those ones.† He made some really nice plays on the ball.† Everyone really contributed, so it was a fun game and a great way to start the year.
(on the team playing well as a whole today)
I tell you, theyíve been playing like that all preseason ó the defense, and we see them in practice every day, so they are very competitive.† They are competitive on the outside, they rush the quarterback, get turnovers, they do a good job covering the backside of the backfield, so there was a lot of team defense out there and I thought the special teams really complimented what we were doing.† It was very much a team win.
(on RB Stevan Ridley running the ball successfully today)
It was great, he ran the ball extremely well.† We have to continue to do that ó it was very balanced in terms of running and passing and thatís what makes it tough to defend.† Situationally, obviously there are some things we could have done better, but at least it is something to build on.
(on if he was prepared to come back out on the field right after injuring his nose had the Patriots defense not scored a touchdown)
(on if his nose is broken)
I donít know.
(on if heís ever broken his nose before)
In my life? No. In a previous life? Iím not sure.
(on if his nose feels like it is broken)
I have no idea what a broken nose feels likeónot good (laughs).† Itíll be fine.† I need some of that anyway.
(on the commitment to the running game today)
I think itís something weíve been doing all season long.† All through mini-camp, training camp, regular season games, you know weíve made a commitment to running the football and you saw it today.† Itís a lot of carries by the backs; they have a lot of opportunity.† When you can control the tempo of the game, it really helps out the rest of the team ó it helps special teams, it helps defense.† Iím not sure what the time of possession was, but it obviously helps that as well.† You just canít drop back and throw it 50 times a game, right around 30 passes a game is where you want to be.
(on if running the ball successfully is more significant than people sometimes realize)
Sure, and the toughness of your team is built around running the ball and stopping the run.† The critical games and the critical situations ó thatís the foundation of your team and thatís what youíre built on and thatís what youíve got to be able to do.† Youíve got to run it when they know youíre going to run it, and I say that all the time.† I think with what we do in the run game and play-action game and you spread them out and you run screens, you run draws, you run traps, you spread the ball to all the different receivers it really makes it hard for the defense to just key in on something and say this is what we need to do. You really have to defend everything.
(on the team being comfortable offensively)
Coach always talks about us going out there for one reason, and that is to score points.† He doesnít expect us to go out there and punt the ball.† I thought there were times when we did a good job of that, and there were times when we really didnít do a good job of that and we had an opportunity to do that.† Getting off to a good start on first down and third down situations which are shorter which youíre obviously going to do a better job at, so we sustained drives ó I donít think we had any three-and-outs, if any.† We have to do a better job of sustaining over the course of the drive which is what we need to be able to do.† Unless, of course, you hit a long play and when you call those you have to hit those.
(on the play his tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski)
They complement each other and I think Mike (Hoomanawanui), you guys probably pronounce his name better than I can, but he did a nice job filling in at that tight end position for us.† Thatís a strong position for us, receiver position is strong, running back position is strong and the offensive line continues to build and play well.† Like I said, it wasnít all perfect but itís good enough and itís good enough to get a win on the road.
(on the improvement of the offensive line today from their play in the presason)
Yeah, itís something weíve been working on all preseason.† It hadnít really come together until this week with Logan (Mankins) being in there a lot, Seabass (Sebastian Vollmer) coming back, there is quite a bit of depth at that position.† It was a very competitive training camp.† The guys that are in there really earned that spot.† Nate (Solder) has been out there all camp, so he continues to improve.† I am extremely comfortable and confident in those guys and they work their butt off.† I just have to stand there and make those throws because thatís what this team really counts on me for.
PATRIOTS DL VINCE WILFORK
(on his overall thoughts on the 34-13 win over the Titans)
We came in feeling good and happy with the way that we practiced. The way we prepared, I think everybody was confident. It showed today. This is a good team win. You are talking about three phases of your team †ó †special teams, offense, defense †ó †coming together and getting a team victory. It is great to have that, especially in your first game, on the road, against a tough environment. I think we responded very, very well. Itís definitely something to build on. It wasnít perfect. Itís the start of the season. There are some things that we still need to work on to get better. The key for us now is to go back, watch film, make corrections and move forward and get better as a team. I think everybodyís mind frame is that is where weíre at now.
(on holding Titans running back Chris Johnson to just four yards rushing and the play of the young Patriots defenders)
I think it is a mix of everything. I think when you put 11 guys together and you have goals, you donít want to let the guy beside you down. One of our goals every year is being able to stop the run and playing good third down defense. Today we responded well against the run. I think throughout the preseason we showed improvement each week. This is something that I think can be a backbone for us †ó †if we can go into a game and just get teams one-dimensional. That will help us tremendously. That is what we are looking forward to. We are very excited about these guys, and very, very happy with the performance that these guys came out and had as a team and as a unit, especially being a defensive lineman and coming out and holding a great back to only four yards. That is just a good team defense. It is not just the guys up front. It is the backers, the secondary at times. We all play this game together. As long as we continue to play better and get better as a team, I think we will do some special things.
PATRIOTS CB DEVIN McCOURTY
(on getting off to a 1-0 start)
That is always the way that you want to come out. You want to try and get some things done, especially fundamentally, which is what we have been working on all preseason. I think from that standpoint we came out, we executed some things we wanted to do and most importantly you want to come out and get a win the first week of the season.
(on if the defense had anything new in place for Titans quarterback Jake Locker)
No, for us it was really donít make it easy for him. [We tried] to give him different looks and keep things moving on him. When you come in with a new quarterback, you donít know how he is going to adjust. You are not fully aware of what he can do. Just wanted to keep things moving, and for us, especially in the secondary, we wanted to be fundamentally sound and not let them take advantage of us trying to guess and do the wrong thing.
(on his impressions of Jake Locker)
I thought that he fought out there. He does a great job of keeping plays alive. Even on the touchdown, first he went left and he came back to the right and he was able to throw a pretty good pass out there. For us it was really just trying to stay on our guys and stay deep, especially once he started scrambling around back there.
(on the preparation for Titans running back Chris Johnson and the job the defense did holding him to only four yards)
A lot [of preparation]. He is a phenomenal player. The thing with Chris Johnson is that he goes anywhere on the field on any run. We just wanted to make sure that we bottled him up and for the most part we were able to do that today. Like I said, when you come out in week one you have certain things that you want to get done in a game, and that was certainly one of them. So to get that done, it really shows that we are working hard and coming out there and executing on Sundays.
PATRIOTS DE ROB NINKOVICH
(on forcing turnovers against the Titans offense)
Last year I think we did a good job of getting the ball for our offense and any time that Tom [Brady] has the ball in his hands it helps the whole team. As many turnovers as you can get and let the offense work Ė that is going to help us in the long run.
(on seeing rookie defenders Chandler Jones and Dontía Hightower as playmakers)
That is why they are here. I think you donít get drafted in the first round if you are not.
(on adjustments made after the Titans opening drive)
Every team comes out and they are going to have their plays that they are going to run Ė their best plays against us. You just have to settle down and understand what they are trying to attack on us, and go from there. I think that we did a good job of taking the first drive for what it was, adjusting to it, and playing the rest of the game.
PATRIOTS DE CHANDLER JONES
(on limiting Titans running back Chris Johnson to four yards rushing)
It is everyone just taking care of their responsibilities. Itís everyone doing their job.
(on if he could sense Chris Johnson getting frustrated)
Iím not sure. I was just focused on what was going on on our side of the ball.
By Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn.†– Tom Brady threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and the defending AFC champion Patriots routed the Tennessee Titans 34-13 for their ninth straight season-opening win Sunday. It’s the longest current streak in the league.
Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley hurt Brady in the second quarter when he got Tennessee’s only sack of the game. Brady said that was the only good hit he took all day and complimented his revised offensive line featuring a new left tackle in Nate Solder, new center in Dan Connolly and right guard in Donald Thomas.
”It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but it’s always fun to win,” Brady said. ”It’s a good feeling.”
The Patriots ruined Jake Locker‘s debut as Tennessee’s starter, sacking him twice and forcing two turnovers. New England rookie Dont’a Hightower returned Locker’s fumble 6 yards for a TD in his own debut, and Stevan Ridley ran for 125 yards and a TD.
New England even knocked Locker out of the game in the fourth quarter and held Chris Johnson to 4 yards on 11 carries.
”This is something that can be a backbone for us,” Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. ” To hold a great back to only 4 yards that was good defense.”
Locker hurt his left shoulder tackling safety Patrick Chung on a fumble return officials should have whistled dead as an incomplete pass to Titans receiver Nate Washington, who also was hurt on the play. Matt Hasselbeck replaced Locker, who was kept on the sideline as a precaution.
The eighth pick overall in 2011 tried to talk his way back onto the field after being examined. Locker said he was sore but expects to play next week at San Diego. And he won’t shy away from tackling in the future.
”I know I’m playing offense,” Locker said. ”I’m not going to let a guy run into the end zone.”
The Titans weren’t happy at the failure of the replacement officials on three different passes into the end zone they thought deserved flags for pass interference. Coach Mike Munchak said there always will be calls they believe are missed by officials.
The first came on the opening drive when Devin McCourty helped break up a pass to Damian Williams in the end zone. The second wound up an interception by Patriots rookie Tavon Wilson on a pass to Washington. The third came with Chung defending Jared Cook in the fourth quarter that left the Titans tight end pleading his case to an official.
Williams had an opinion on the lack of a flag, but refused to criticize the officials, who also needed replay to overturn the on-field ruling of an interception by McCourty in the third quarter that squirted out when he hit the ground.
The Titans even had former Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt on hand, not that she could help them stop or even slow Brady – despite spending the offseason prepping for the teams’ first meeting since being routed 59-0 in New England in October 2009.
Brady threw five TD passes in one quarter that day. He didn’t match that Sunday, but didn’t need to with Ridley providing plenty of help on the ground as the Patriots outgained Tennessee 390-284.
”They’re going to make their share of plays, which we knew,” Munchak said. ”We just couldn’t help them, and unfortunately along the way, we helped them.”
The Titans couldn’t match Brady’s efficiency and had to settle twice for field goals of 28 and 24 yards by Rob Bironas. Locker did find Nate Washington on a 29-yard TD in the third quarter even with Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones grabbing the quarterback.
Brady missed connecting with Brandon Lloyd for a would-be TD on the opening drive. That was among his few misses.
He put the Patriots up 7-3 with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez late in the first quarter, capping a 67-yard drive. It was Brady’s 301st career pass, surpassing John Elway for fifth in TD passes in NFL history. It also marked his 33rd straight game with a TD pass. He found Rob Gronkowski on a 2-yard TD pass just before halftime for a 21-3 lead.
The Patriots’ work boosting their defense through the draft showed early dividends. Jones sacked Locker and forced a fumble that Hightower ran in for a 14-3 lead in the second quarter.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick got his 193rd career victory, tying him for eighth all-time with Chuck Knox. … Brady became the 14th player with 40,000 yards passing in his career. He has 40,215 yards, just shy of Johnny Unitas (40,239) for 13th. … Brady now has sole possession of fifth for career wins by a quarterback with 125. … Brady is 5-1 against Tennessee and has 10 TDs with no interceptions in those games. … Titans LB Colin McCarthy had a walking boot on his right foot but said he’ll be OK.
Austin Peay State Universityís menís and womenís golf team open up their fall schedule in unique fashion when they travel to Pwaleys Island, S.C. to compete in the Golfweek Program Challenge. The tournament runs Sunday through Tuesday.
The two teams will compete independently of each other — the women at the Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and the men at the True Blue Golf Club — but will score collectively as a combined program for the overall champion.
The Caledonia Golf & Fish Club is a 6,526-yard par-70 course, while the True Blue Golf Club is a 6,842-yard par-72 championship course.
Both squads will compete for a tournament championship in their independent 54-hole events, but the menís and womenís final score will be combined to crown an overall event champion. The Golfweek Program Challenge is in its second year, with Campbell winning the overall and menís championship last season, while East Carolina won the womenís side of the tournament.
The practice round is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8.
The 12 teams, including Austin Peay, vying for the championship are Boston College, Campbell, Northern Iowa, UMKC, Georgetown, Stetson, Troy, James Madison, Central Arkansas, Western Carolina and fellow Ohio Valley Conference member Jacksonville State.
On the menís side, the Governors will be paired with Central Arkansas and Georgetown, to start the tournament, with Korey Smith (redshirt Fr./Murfreesboro, Tenn.) teeing off from the 10th hole at 6:30 a.m. followed by Chris Baker (Fr./Franklin, Tenn.), Marco Iten (Jr./Niederglatt, Switzerland), Anthony Bradley (Ivybridge, England) and Dustin Korte (Metropolis, Ill.) in 10 minute intervals.
ďWeíre going to have to play our best on a new gold course (for us) with none of the guys having ever played there,Ē said Austin Peay menís coach Kirk Kayden, in his pre-tournament interview. ďWeíll really have to do our homework during the practice round to figure it all out. But weíre excited with Golfweek inviting us.Ē
On the womenís side, the Lady Govs are paired with Central Arkansas and Troy, with Jessica Cathey (Fr./Hixon, Tenn.) teeing off at 6:30 a.m. on the 10th tee, followed by Lauren Bond (Sr./Marion, Ill.), Rachel Deaton (Jr./Jackson, Tenn.), Tabitha Beard (Sr./Centerville, Tenn.) and Holly Batey (Sr./Clarksville, Tenn.).
Lady Govs assistant coach Chelsea Harris will be making the trip for Austin Peay, with head coach Sara Robson being out on maternity leave.
ďItís a great honor to be invited to the tournament, said Harris in the pre-tournament interview. ďThere will be a lot of great golfers there.Ē
BLACKSBURG, Va.-Logan Thomas threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 15/18 Virginia Tech to a 42-7 victory Saturday afternoon against Austin Peay in a non-conference game.
Virginia Tech, which beat ACC rival Georgia Tech to open the season, moves to 2-0 on the season while APSU falls to 0-2. The Govs will open Ohio Valley Conference play next week at Tennessee State. APSU was paid $318,750 to play Virginia Tech.
“We knew coming in that we had to do everything right,” APSU coach Rick Christophel said. “When you don’t do things right on special teams and you give up some big plays, you are going to have some problems. We had some opportunities. I thought we played really, really hard. It was a good ball game-we got a little tired at the end. I told the players after the game that I was as proud of them as any team we have had here at Austin Peay because they fought all the way to end.”
Thomas, the All-America candidate, finished 15 of 23 passing. His 30-yard scoring toss to Corey Fuller with 26 seconds left in the first half eased the tension of Hokie fans who were more than a bit restless for much of the first half as APSU forced two Hokie punts, forced a turnover and stopped Virginia Tech on a fourth-and-one deep in APSU territory.
That late first-half score gave Virginia Tech a 21-0 lead going into halftime-the Hokies took advantage of a blocked punt to the second quarter to score their second TD. The Hokies benefited from a Govs turnover midway through the third quarter to break open the game 28-0.
However, the Governors responded with their season’s most impressive drive, going 78 yards on six plays, the bulk coming on Wesley Kitts runs-he accounted for 49 yards, including a 32-yard run. Kitts got the Govs to the 10 and Terrence Oliver scored his career’s first TD, a 10-yard up-the-middle run as APSU cut the deficit to 28-7.
Kitts finished with a career-best 110 yards on 22 carries. In his first two career starts-both against Football Bowl Subdivision schools, Kitts has rushed for more than 100 yards.
But the most improve play came up front defensively. The Govs held Virginia Tech to 187 yards rushing, many coming late in the contest when APSU began to tire.
“We talked after the game last week, where we thought we had to improve the most and that was up front,” Christophel said. “And we did.”
Defensively, Johnathan Shuler led the way with nine stops, including 1.5 for loss while Craig Salley, Earnest Smith and Steven Rich each had nine. Salley and Smith had sacks.
Lady Govs swat Hornets to wrap Bama Bash stay
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Ė Austin Peay State Universityís volleyball team wrapped up its stay at the Hampton Inn Bama Bash with a three-set victory (25-8, 25-18, 25-15) Saturday against Alabama StatE at Foster Auditorium.
Austin Peay (5-9) led the first and third sets wire-to-wire. The Lady Govs secured a 25-8 first-set win with seven kills Ė four coming from senior outside hitter Nikki Doyle Ė and three service aces. The Lady Govs needed 11 kills to post a 25-15 third-set victory, including five from sophomore outside hitter Jada Stotts.
Alabama State (0-11) tested Austin Peay in the second set, forcing seven ties and two lead changes. However, the last of those ties came at 7-7 and Austin Peay used a 7-2 run to break the set open. The Lady Govs closed the set with a 9-4 run to secure the 25-18 win.
ďI believe the pieces are starting to come together,Ē said Lady Govs head coach Taylor Mott. ďWe played hard on every point this weekend. This is the team I want to show up every time.Ē
Doyle led Austin Peayís offense with nine kills while Stotts and junior middle blocker Lauren Henderson each added eight kills. The Lady Govs needed 34 kills in the win and posted a .394 attack percentage.
Amber Bennett led Alabama State with eight kills. The Hornets finished with 27 kills and a .111 attack percentage.
Stotts and sophomore setter Cami Fields were named to the all-tournament team. Stotts scored 57 kills in four tournament matches and posted a .347 attack percentage. Fields finished with 140 assists (10.77 assists per set) and the Lady Govs posted a .312 team attack percentage behind her setting performance.
Austin Peay returns to Tennessee and will wrap up a season-opening 15-match roadtrip with a 7 p.m., Tuesday contest at Middle Tennessee.
Lady Govs clip Cardinals behind Henderson’s five aces
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Ė Austin Peay State Universityís volleyball team didnít show the effects of a short turnaround at the Hampton Inn Bama Bash, downing Lamar in three sets (25-9, 25-23, 25-16) Saturday morning at Foster Auditorium.
Austin Peay (4-9) returned to the court less than 12 hours after a hard-fought four-set loss to Alabama Friday night. Instead, it roared out of the gates with an impressive 25-9 first set victory against Lamar. The Lady Govs needed only eight kills in the set as they scored an impressive seven service aces, including five by junior middle blocker Lauren Henderson.
Lamar (7-6) bounced back in the second set, but only after finding itself in a five-point, 15-10, hole as Austin Peay dominated the early going. The Cardinals would get back within one point, 21-20, but could not get closer as the Lady Govs held on for the 25-23 win.
The third set was close early with 12 ties and five lead changes in the first 30 points and Lamar held a 14-12 lead. But a 6-0 Austin Peay run turned the tide and a final 6-0 run finished the job in a 25-16 match-ending set win.
ďWe executed our offense well this morning,Ē said Lady Govs head coach Taylor Mott. ďLauren got on a roll serving in set one and really gave us momentum. Jada continues to excel offensively and our middles came up big as well. I canít say enough about the job Cami has done this weekend, she continues to make smart setting decisions.Ē
Henderson finished with eight kills and five service aces to lead Austin Peay. Senior outside hitter Nikki Doyle posted a team-best 12 kills and sophomore outside hitter Jada Stotts chipped in 10 kills. Austin Peay recorded 37 kills and a .301 attack percentage in the win.
Lamar was held to 22 kills and a .049 attack percentage as Austin Peay recorded 38 digs and five blocks. Sierra Whittaker led the Cardinals with seven kills.
It’s a good thing the Braves lead the National League in fielding percentage. The way they’re hitting, they need to prevent as many runs from scoring as possible.
Their .251 team batting average puts them 11th in the league, and that figure reflects earlier hot streaks, not their current offensive fall-off. Their .236 average with runners in scoring position ranks ahead of only the Marlins’ .232 and Padres’ .230 in the National League.
Amazingly, third baseman Chipper Jones is not upset about this. Normally, his annoyance with poor play is written all over his face. But he sees his teammates putting up good at-bats and hitting the ball hard, and he was especially heartened by right-hander Tommy Hanson’s fastball command in Tuesday’s 6-0 loss.
“It didn’t fall in for us,” he said of the nine hits they got in that game versus the Rockies. “We got some results last night, just not when they counted.
“The baseball gods know no timing. That one was easy to flush.”
Jones has not even been moved to call a team meeting, saying the other day, “Trust me, when I feel like something needs to be said, I’ll say it. That’s my job.”
Manager Fredi Gonzalez was glad to be able to write catcher Brian McCann’s name in the lineup again after he’d had to sit out three straight games following a second cortisone shot in his sore right shoulder.
McCann was hopeful of being able to contribute, finally, because he’s able to follow through on his swing since the cortisone took hold. But he ended up going 0-for-3, including grounding into a double play, in Wednesday’s 1-0 win over the Rockies. Rookie left-hander Mike Minor had to pitch a no-hitter through six innings to give the Braves a shot at winning.
–RHP Craig Kimbrel came on with two outs in the top of the eighth to earn the first four-out save of his career. “Of course it was fun!” he said. “I’ve been wanting to do that all year!”
–LHP Mike Minor pitched a no-hitter through six innings but gave up a single to Rockies 1B Jordan Pacheco to lead off the seventh, extending Pacheco’s hitting streak to 14 consecutive games. Minor regrouped to strike out the side, allowing a walk before the third strikeout.
–C Brian McCann was back behind the plate after missing three straight games to let the cortisone shot he took Saturday in his right shoulder work. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has been giving McCann regular days off, usually one in every five, as it works out. Down the stretch, though, Gonzalez thinks he’ll rest McCann more frequently. McCann was 0-for-3 and grounded into a double play.
–2B Dan Uggla was back in the lineup after sitting on the bench for three consecutive games. Manager Fredi Gonzalez, in manipulating his lineup in search of more offense, thinks three games is as much as Uggla should sit at any one time. “I don’t think it does him any good (to be out more than three straight games),” Gonzalez said. “It doesn’t do us any good. We’ve got to get him going.” Uggla was 0-for-3.
BY THE NUMBERS
10 — Times the Braves have won in their last at-bat this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“I kind of just dodged them, I guess.” — LHP Mike Minor on his six no-hit innings versus the Rockies in Wednesday’s 1-0 win.
–C Brian McCann (sore right shoulder) didn’t play Sept. 2-4 after getting a cortisone injection Sept. 1. He was back in the lineup Sept. 5.
–RHP Ben Sheets (right shoulder inflammation) was placed on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 25.
–RHP Jair Jurrjens (strained right groin) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 1.
–OF Matt Diaz (bruised right thumb) went on the 15-day disabled list July 21. He had his arm placed in a cast July 28 to promote healing in the thumb, but it didn’t work, and he underwent season-ending surgery Aug. 15.
–SS Andrelton Simmons (broken right little finger) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 9. He hopes to return sometime in September.
–RHP Brandon Beachy (sore right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list June 17. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery June 21.
–LHP Robert Fish (left elbow tendinitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 1.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. ó Jake Locker has imagined being introduced for the first time as a starting quarterback in the NFL since he was a child.
His momentís finally here.
Locker debuts as Tennesseeís starting quarterback Sunday in the season opener against the defending AFC champion New England Patriots and two-time NFL MVP Tom Brady. Locker said thereís a little different feeling knowing heís the starter going into the game, but insists his preparation and approach remain the same.
ĎĎThe great part about the game of football, although you might be playing at the highest level, the rules are still the same,íí Locker said. ĎĎThe fieldís the same size. Youíre playing with the same amount of guys on it. Itís meant to be fun. You put in all the hard work … and when you get the opportunity to go out on Sunday, you just have to go out and enjoy it.íí
The Titans sat Locker, the eighth selection overall in the 2011 draft out of Washington, last season using veteran Matt Hasselbeck to ease the transition with a new coach in Mike Munchak and no offseason due to the NFL lockout. They responded by going 9-7 and missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
Now itís Lockerís time, and Munchak said his young QB helps give the Titans their best chance to win the AFC South ó even if he has growing pains. They also drafted receiver Kendall Wright in the first round and expect Chris Johnson to bounce back from his worst season as a pro.
ĎĎHe just has to do things that he should, that heís good at right now,íí Munchak said. ĎĎObviously the guys around him, this game isnít all on his shoulders. I think he realizes that we have a lot of weapons we have to be able to use. But that makes it exciting because I think there are a lot of things we can do with Jake.íí
The Patriots won their sixth AFC championship since 1994 last season with Brady throwing for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns but missed out on a fourth Super Bowl trophy with a 21-17 loss to the New York Giants in February. Thereís been plenty of changes since that loss, including acquiring Brandon Lloyd as a new deep threat for Brady.
This will be Bradyís 13th season opener. He canít recall his first but knows how excited he was when he started.
ĎĎYou only get one season opener, and everything you’ve done for the last eight months is in preparation for this game,íí Brady said. ĎĎAll the spring camps, all the summer practices, training camp, preseason games. I mean this is why you work hard and prepare ó for opportunities like this. We all have them. Itís exciting for every player that will take the field.íí
Itís the first time these teams have met since New England romped over Tennessee 59-0 in October 2009 during a freak autumn snow storm.
The Titans want a better start than a year ago when they opened with a loss at Jacksonville after a frantic few weeks where coaches and players were busy just learning names. Complex offensive and defensive schemes were left until the offseason.
ĎĎWe feel good about where weíre at,íí Munchak said. ĎĎThereís no reason we should not be on the same page in all the things we’ll be doing on Sunday, and nothing should hold us back. We’ll go out there and play our best and expect to win when we play.íí
The Patriots have won eight straight openers, the longest active streak in the NFL. They still have Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski along with Aaron Hernandez for Brady to throw to from an offense that was the NFLís second-best in 2011 rolling up 428 yards per game.
How well they protect Brady could be an issue with left guard Logan Mankins limited in the preseason after offseason knee surgery and right guard Brian Waters hasnít shown up yet. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is on the injury report with back problems.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the linemen who will play have experience and are working well together.
ĎĎIt is always a challenge to block any front in the NFL, particularly an active one like Tennessee,íí Belichick said. ĎĎI think those guys have worked hard and done a good job. We will see where we are at come Sunday afternoon.íí
Tennessee signed Kamerion Wimbley to play end and anchor a young defensive line. He had 16 sacks in his last two seasons in Oakland, and heís ready to chase Brady.
ĎĎHeís done fantastic things over his career, so this will be a big challenge for us and a great opportunity to see where we stand going into the regular season,íí Wimbley said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. ó Kendall Wrightís NFL career is likely to be determined by athletic ability, aptitude and attitude.
Wrightís college stats and game films from Baylor introduced his abilities to scouts who slotted him as first-round talent. Heís demonstrated to Titans coaches that he could learn the offensive system quickly, and heís approached the best level of football in the world with an emphasis on making the team instead of a name for himself.
The 20th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft quickly said he didnít care what role coaches had in mind ó starter, reserve or special teams ó as long as he won a roster spot. His low-key and unassuming approach that doesnít always accompany players of such unique athletic abilities has positioned Wright to begin writing his career.
His story already has been defined by what heís not.
Shortly into voluntary organized team activity practices, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer was asked to critique Wright. Palmer said Wright is talented and enjoyable to be around, then made a distinction that sets Wright apart.
ďHeís not a diva,Ē Palmer said. ďHeís not your typical wide receiver. Heís a football player.Ē
Asked to further explain, Palmer said, ďThe diva is a guy that picks and chooses when heís going to play hard. I think Kendall is one of those guys who just loves the competition. Heís different. Heís a basketball player thatís a football player that was a former quarterback. Heís got stardom written all over him.Ē
Wright led the Titans this preseason with nine catches for 116 yards that included a 10-yard TD pass from Jake Locker, and the rookie will play his first regular season game Sunday when Tennessee hosts New England at LP Field.
ďIím very excited for the opportunity,Ē Wright said. ďIt will be exciting come game day, and we have a lot of weapons on offense, so everybody will get targeted a lot.Ē
Wright shattered Baylor receiving records, joining with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III to raise a program that struggled greatly in the four seasons prior to their arrival to a 10-3 mark and national prominence in their senior season. Wright capped his college career with 302 catches for 4,004 yards and 30 receiving touchdowns. He had 108 receptions for 1,663 yards and 14 TD catches during his senior season.
It would be easy to become a diva, but he didnít.
Rural roots in northeast Texas may have something to do with it. Wright grew up in Pittsburg, which is about a half-hour closer to Texarkana than Dallas, but more than an hour from either.
ďItís a small town. Everybody knows each other and everybody loves their sports,Ē said Wright, who first loved basketball, but learned he could also have success on the football field and in track and field events.
ďI didnít like football for a long time. I always thought I was going to play basketball. Football just kind of came to me,Ē he added. ďI was good through pee wee, high school and didnít think I had a chance of going to the NFL until my sophomore of college at the end of it. RG3 got hurt, and I was still doing some good things, but I had no idea I would play in the NFL.Ē
Wright played quarterback all four years in high school so coaches could guarantee he would get the ball in his hands. He didnít want to do that in college. Baylor went 15-31 in football from 2004-07, but the school offered Wright the chance to play receiver, basketball and another unique opportunity.
ďI didnít want to go to a school that was already good,Ē Wright said. ďI wanted to help change a program. Thatís one of the reasons I chose Baylor.Ē
Professional basketball has had few 5-foot-10-inch players, even if they can dunk, so Wright strengthened his commitment to football. There is still considerable overlap with players who simultaneously excel in football and track, but the NFL has a recent trend of finding success in players with basketball backgrounds (like New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham).
Titans coach Dave Ragone said skills and movements used in basketball help players ó especially receivers ó make quicker cuts.
ďHeís got a natural ability to play with great body lean, which means he doesnít play high when heís running,Ē Ragone said, ďHeís got a lot of basketball in him, which allows him to plant his foot in the ground and change direction.Ē
Ragone added that Wright ďdoesnít let things bother him. Heís very coachable. Heís one of those guys that goes out there and he wants to absorb as much as possible, but he doesnít over-think it, so I think thatís a good thing, especially for a young guy in this league.Ē
With the extra focus on football, skills improved, stats surged and wins followed. Most of the media coverage of Baylorís emergence centered on Griffin, which was fine by Wright, who has adjusted to increased media attention that documents a first-rounderís first year.
ďIím getting a lot of attention that Iím not used to,Ē Wright said. ďI donít really like attention like that. I never really got it because of Robert Griffin. I never really wanted it. Iím not that type of guy who loves attention. I like to stay on the low and would rather not do interviews and those kinds of things.Ē
Wright hasnít been enticed by the forms of social media that have drawn in teammates and others in his generation wonder how anyone lived without.
ďThereís some fake Twitters of me, but itís not me,Ē Wright said. ďI just donít really do social media. If I ever get one, I wonít get on it. I feel like thatís like a double life. Thereís nobody begging me to get a Twitter or things like that.Ē
Wright instead prefers direct person-to-person interaction. When he had more free time, one of his favorite pastimes was the peace and quiet he enjoyed while bass fishing.
ďI caught some big ones,Ē Wright said. ďA couple of them almost pulled me in the water (laughing), you know, Iím not that big of a guy.Ē
Wright has pretty much been all-football all the time since joining the Titans. Heís accepted the increased exposure as part of the profession and has not been overwhelmed off the field or on it. Baylor didnít use a playbook, but that hasnít halted Wrightís progression.
ďIíve never heard of someone not having a playbook, but heís a great learner in the classroom,Ē Ragone said. ďHeís also as good or better, that once he does it, he has it. Visually, to be able to feel it, but also see it on a piece of paper, itís kind of been seamless in terms of his transition to be able to do that.Ē
Wright hasnít been afraid to ask questions of Titans coaches and teammates. Heís turned to veteran Nate Washington, who led the Titans in receiving in 2011, most frequently. Washington said Wrightís humbleness has been the biggest surprise.
ďIf youíre getting drafted in the first round, of course you have ability, Washington said. ďHeís understanding that heís not coming in above anybody, but heís not putting himself behind anybody either. He wants to work, he wants to learn just as everybody else does. Heís working just as hard to get better. Heís doing what the coaches have asked of him, and thatís a good thing. We really appreciate how heís acted, his humbleness, his attitude toward the game right now.Ē
Titans coach Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fame player who was a first-round selection of the Houston Oilers in 1982, said Wright passed early eyeball tests.
ďSometimes you realize a guy has that,Ē Munchak said. ďHeís ready for that. I think we saw a lot of that in what we saw in the time he was here in the summer. Itís like when (tackle)
came in, there wasnít much mystery that he was going to help us right away. When certain guys come in, you go, ĎOh, heís ready to play.í Ē