NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans general manager Jon Robinson isn’t satisfied with running a slightly above-average squad, and he’s making offseason moves in hopes of earning leaguewide respect as championship contenders. Free agents are noticing.
References to the Titans becoming “Patriots Southeast” only increased after Robinson signed former New England cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back Dion Lewis with Tennessee’s first two outside free-agent moves. Josh Kline, a guard the Titans picked up off waivers from the Patriots in 2016, also re-signed on a four-year deal with Tennessee this offseason.
There’s a “getting the band back together” feel in Tennessee. The Patriots are a great model to follow, but nobody has been able to duplicate it yet. There’s no Tom Brady for other teams to pick up. Still, what the Titans are doing is garnering notice throughout the league.
“It doesn’t matter what they’re trying to build; as long as it’s right and it’s going to win, I’m down for whatever,” said Butler, citing a good franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota, a familiar teammate in cornerback Logan Ryan, warm weather and a belief that the Titans are close to a championship as reasons why he signed in free agency over several other suitors.
Lewis offered his take
“They’re trying to bring good, smart football players here,” Lewis said. “We got Logan, Malcolm, myself and Coach [Mike] Vrabel played with the Patriots. It’s a lot of carryover, but at the same time, they’re trying to get good, talented players to win. I’m just happy they thought of me as one of those players to help.”
Robinson, who began his NFL administrative career as a Patriots scout, has a strong affinity for the New England organization. He personally selected Vrabel to replace former head coach Mike Mularkey, noting that the two share a similar philosophy on how to create a championship culture. Both prioritize tough, “we instead of me” guys.
“We shared a bunch of success there,” Vrabel said earlier this offseason when asked if the Titans are following the so-called Patriot Way. “To get a ‘way,’ you have to win. You have to be able to win championships before people start giving you ‘ways’ to do things. That will be our ultimate goal, but I talked about how our players are going to be prepared.
“They’re going to play fast and aggressive, and that’s what I believe in. Until we can win a championship doing that, then there’s not going to be this ‘Titans Way.’”
Ryan, another former Patriot whom the Titans signed to a three-year deal last offseason, was a significant recruiter as Tennessee pursued Butler and Lewis.
Workin the phones Recruiting 🗣🗣Come to TN!! TaxFree lol #FreeAgency
— Logan Ryan (@RealLoganRyan) March 13, 2018
“It’s like the first day of school, but you got two brothers with you in the new school,” said Butler, who felt relieved to be in a comfortable place after an offseason full of turmoil relating to his curious Super Bowl LII benching. “The Patriots are all about doing your job and being locked in and focused 100 percent. That was probably not the case [with me]. … But the experience made me better and stronger. Pain don’t last long, like a scab on your arm.”
Ryan thought highly of Butler, remembering their strong chemistry and communication during three seasons together in New England. Butler would get the fast guy. Ryan would get the strong guy. Ryan actually called Butler and Lewis on Tuesday morning to make his pitch.
“He said, ‘C’mon man, let’s get this reunion back together. The same one-two punch with me and you, plus [cornerback Adoree’] Jackson,'” Butler said. “Logan had always been a good teammate to me. I don’t think he would sit there and tell me anything. I believe him and I believe in this organization.”
Lewis shared his thoughts on the matter.
“Logan is a big part of this as well,” Lewis said. “He mentioned he just bought a house and he’s only been here for a year. To buy a house that quickly, you really must love the area you’re in. That meant a lot to me. Malcolm came too, so that was another big one.”
If you’re willing to follow the Patriot Way, you’ve got to accept the Patriots’ expectations. And the Titans seem focused on moving from dark horse contender to legitimate championship threat. We’ll see if the plan works.
New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas ruled out vs. Green Bay Packers with ankle injury
METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas won’t play in Sunday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers after he was ruled out for the second straight week with his high ankle sprain.
Thomas has not practiced since he suffered the ankle injury during the final minutes of New Orleans’ Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, the team chose not to place him on injured reserve — which would have required him to miss at least three games. So there is still hope that he could potentially return as soon as next week.
The Saints’ offense struggled without Thomas in Monday night’s 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, which led to scrutiny over Drew Brees’ lack of downfield passes.
Brees completed 26 of 38 passes for 312 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Third-year receiver Tre’Quan Smith caught five passes for 86 yards, but newly signed veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders had just once catch for 18 yards.
“Obviously with the loss of Mike Thomas last week, we’re having to fit some guys in new roles, get some guys some significant playing time, maybe in different situations that they haven’t been in before,” Brees said earlier this week. “I think there definitely is that element of just getting everybody on the same page, everybody in sync. And man, I’m confident with the guys that we have, with the system that we have and everything that we’re gonna be able to get back on track.”
Thomas is obviously vital to New Orleans’ offense. He won the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award last season after setting the NFL record with 149 catches in a season.
Thomas isn’t the only star receiver who might be missing from Sunday night’s marquee matchup, however. Packers receiver Davante Adams is listed as doubtful after missing practice all week with a hamstring injury.
Detroit Lions’ Kenny Golladay (hamstring) hopes to make debut vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Detroit Lions seem to be closer to getting back their top wide receiver.
Kenny Golladay said he hopes to make his season debut against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury. “God-willing, I’m going to try everything in my power to be out there with the guys,” Golladay said.
The Pro Bowl wide receiver practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and said while he doesn’t feel 100 percent — he wouldn’t put a percentage on how healthy he is — he’s going to do everything he can and show enough to play against Arizona.
In three career games, Golladay has three touchdowns against Arizona.
Golladay, 26, said the injury has been frustrating, but that unlike his rookie year when he also had a hamstring injury, he listened to his body more this time around. He also said he understood his body more and wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be any setbacks. So he listened to his trainers and didn’t push anything.
“Me missing a couple of games to try and be back hopefully for Week 3,” Golladay said. “That’s better than me missing six games.”
Detroit is getting healthier. In addition to Golladay, right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (foot) is questionable but practiced all week. Cornerback Desmond Trufant (hamstring) is doubtful, safety C.J. Moore (calf) is questionable and tight end Hunter Bryant (hamstring) is out.
Tennessee Titans LB Vic Beasley finally set for season debut
Beasley has been dealing with a knee injury that limited him in practice for most of the previous two weeks. After working on a separate field with head coach Mike Vrabel, Beasley has been a full participant at practice since Thursday of last week.
The sixth-year linebacker signed a one-year, $9.5 million deal with the Titans in March and took part in virtual meetings with the team during the offseason. But Beasley reported to camp 10 days late, an unexcused absence that resulted in a $500,000 fine.
“There was a little disagreement here and there, but those things are behind us. I have moved on and let bygones be bygones,” Beasley said Friday. “That’s something that we’ll keep confidential between me and the other party. What’s understood is understood. We came to an agreement, settled our differences and are both understanding of the situation. It’s all smiles on both ends, and we are happy to work together.”
Once Beasley got to camp he was placed on the non-football injury list. The Titans listed Beasley on the practice report with a knee injury. Beasley complimented the Titans’ training staff, calling it “amazing” and saying “they have been nothing but good” for him.
As a member of the Atlanta Falcons, Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2015. He finished with 8.5 sacks for the Falcons last season. A questionable work ethic and passion for the game reportedly led to Beasley becoming a free agent. But he feels he’s in the right place with the Titans.
“I’m excited getting to work with Vrabes, a guy who has the defensive perspective and actually played the same position that I did. That can only benefit me,” Beasley said. “I love the game. I wouldn’t waste nobody’s time if I didn’t love the game. I’m not going to give nobody half-hearted effort.”
Now that he is on the field, the Titans hope to get a boost in their pass rush that can help them reach the ultimate goal. Said Beasley, “Here, we are all on the same mission — that’s to win the Super Bowl.”
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