Amani Hooker Jersey

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NASHVILLE – The Titans selected Iowa defensive back Amani Hooker in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, and he’s ready to get to work.

“(The Titans) are getting a playmaker, a baller, a student of the game and a guy you don’t have to worry about off the field,” Hooker said after being picked. “I am going to come into work every day, no complaining. It’s a business now and I am ready to take it on and win some championships and some Super Bowls.”

Hooker (6-0, 200), who played at safety and nickel for the Hawkeyes, was taken with the 116th overall pick after the team traded up to get him. The Titans traded picks 121 and 157 to the Jets for picks 116 and 168.

Hooker was named Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year in the Big Ten, and he was a second-team All-America by the Associated Press and USA Today.

Hooker shared the team lead in interceptions (4) and pass break-ups (7) while ranking second in tackles (65) in 2018. In 2017, Hooker recorded 56 tackles and also had two interceptions and one touchdown return, along with two pass break-ups.

“He’s a versatile defensive back who has played nickel, he’s played off the hash, he’s played down in the box, he’s played in the kicking game,” Titans General Manager Jon Robinson said. “He was set to return punts for them this year, so we’ll put him back there and see what that’s like.”

Titans coach Mike Vrabel said he envisions starting Hooker out at safety “and watch him develop.”

“He was very versatile for Iowa,” Vrabel said. “He played a lot of different places. This is a guy who can probably do a lot, but we don’t want to give him more that he can handle. We’re just excited to get him working.”

Hooker made a pre-draft visit to the Titans, and spent time with defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs, among others. He said he’s looking forward to working alongside safety Kevin Byard and the rest of the Titans, and is willing to play wherever the team needs him.

“Kevin Byard is a dog. Two years ago he led the league in interceptions, and every time I turned on ESPN, there he is making a play,” Hooker said. “They are a great defense. They run a similar defense that we ran at Iowa, so it shouldn’t be too tough of a transition for me to understand what is going on.”

Hooker said he enjoyed his time in Nashville during his visit, and likes the vibe in the city and around the team.

“It’s a great franchise, a class-act franchise,” Hooker said. “Top-notch coaches and top-notch competition as well. I know we are going to win some games this year, and I am very excited. The coaching staff is trying to build a culture around there, and hopefully I’m a guy who can come in and help that out.”

Nate Davis Jersey

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In the third round, the Titans addressed one of their biggest needs heading into the 2019 NFL Draft.

Tennessee selected Charlotte offensive lineman Nate Davis with the 82nd overall pick. Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey announced the pick on the main stage on Lower Broadway.

The 6-foot-3, 316-pound Davis said he hopes to earn the starting role at right guard, where the Titans have an opening after releasing Josh Kline and opting not to bring back Quinton Spain earlier this offseason.

“That’s my goal, to come in here and earn the respect in the locker room, the older guys and the vets,” Davis said. “I just have to do what I do and hopefully I can earn that spot.”

Davis, who was invited to both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, was a four-year starter at Charlotte and made 37 career starts over a 40-game career. He played his first three collegiate seasons at right guard before transitioning to tackle as a senior.

The Titans hosted Davis on a pre-draft visit, and general manager Jon Robinson said he liked what he saw in the offensive lineman.

“He’ll come in here and go in there with the line room and get to work,” Robinson said. “It’s all about competition. I’m not anointing anybody. I’m just excited to get him in here and watch him go after it.”

Davis, who was invited to both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, was a four-year starter at Charlotte and made 37 career starts over a 40-game career. He played his first three collegiate seasons at right guard before transitioning to tackle as a senior.

The Titans hosted Davis on a pre-draft visit, and general manager Jon Robinson said he liked what he saw in the offensive lineman.

“He’ll come in here and go in there with the line room and get to work,” Robinson said. “It’s all about competition. I’m not anointing anybody. I’m just excited to get him in here and watch him go after it.”

A.J. Brown Jersey

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Marcus Mariota has a new, dynamic target.

And A.J. Brown gives Titans fans another reason to be optimistic about an offense that last season was among the worst in the league in passing. The Ole Miss product, whom the Titans drafted in the second round (51st overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft, joins a receiving corps that includes Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor.

Here are five things to know about the Titans’ new wideout:
Prolific at Ole Miss

Titans general manager Jon Robinson continued his streak of drafting wide receivers with a proven track record.

Brown left Ole Miss as the program’s all-time leading wide receiver with 2,984 yards. As a junior this past season, he had 85 catches for 1,320 yards and six touchdowns.

Since Robinson took over as GM in 2016, he’s drafted four wide receivers – Davis, Taylor, Sharpe and Brown – and all four had at least two 1,000-yard seasons in college.

The Titans chose Brown over his teammate at Ole Miss, D.K. Metcalf, whom many analysts had ranked ahead of Brown but who had only 1,228 yards in his collegiate career.

Versatile wideout

Brown is versatile enough to play inside or outside, he said.

“Whatever Tennessee needs,” the wide receiver said on a conference call. “At Ole Miss, I was a slot guy when D.K. got hurt, so I could do both. I could play inside and outside; it really wasn’t a problem. I can run any route, so, I mean, it wasn’t a problem. Got to have the best people on the field any time. At the next level, I’m trying to be able to be versatile.”

The Titans think he can be.

“Really productive in a strong football conference,” Robinson said. “Has played a couple of different positions. Has played outside receiver, has played inside receiver. He’s got good size. He’s got strong hands, good route-running. And he’s got good play speed. Really felt like he fit what we were looking for in a player.”

And at 6-foot, 226 pounds, he gives the Titans another big-bodied option.
He trained with Jerry Rice

During his pre-draft training regimen, Brown was guided by a pretty good player to model himself after as a wide receiver.

He went through endurance training with Jerry Rice, going through the Hall of Fame wide receiver’s famous Hill workout.

“He was just telling me how he liked to play in the games,” Brown said. “His first quarter was his best. Running the hill and getting in shape, he’s still going like it’s the first quarter. You have to stay ready and train hard for those big moments.”

Jeffery Simmons Jersey

The Tennessee Titans picked Jeffery Simmons 19th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Here’s what Stephen White had to say about Simmons just ahead of the draft:

Jeffery Simmons has a lot of good weapons to work with in his arsenal.

He’s a big guy, listed at 6’4 and 300 pounds, and he’s powerful. His strength is readily apparent when you watch his tape. Simmons also uses his hands well, both when taking on blocks and when escaping off of them.

In addition to his power, Simmons is also very athletic, and his lateral quickness is outstanding. He gets off the ball well and into the opposing backfield in a hurry on most plays.

Simmons’ flashes are about as good as you will see from a defensive lineman coming out this year. When he was really on the details, he was tough as hell to block. Whether he was running through a blocker, or around them, Simmons made exceptional plays in the four games of his that I watched.

The thing is, I just felt like if he could have put everything together a little more consistently, Simmons would have been an absolute terror in every game. The flashes were cool, but between them there were some plays that were a little disappointing. Not a lot of them, but just enough to give me some doubts.

Let me start with his positives first, however, and then we can get into where I see room for improvement at the end.

DaQuan Jones Jersey

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Titans defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, who joined teammates in protesting after the playing of the national anthem in 2016 in an effort to effect change in matters of racial injustice and police brutality, is contemplating whether he should continue this season because of what happened to Colin Kaepernick.

“It’s going to affect your job, your endorsements and your money,” said Jones, who joined the Titans’ 2016 protest a couple of weeks into the regular season. “Someone like me, going into my fourth year, I’m trying to get paid too. A lot of teams will look down at that and say, ‘He’s a Colin Kaepernick.'”

Last season, Jones, defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and linebacker Wesley Woodyard all raised their right fists after the national anthem ended to raise awareness of racial issues. Despite maybe having even more reason to protest in 2017, given the violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week and the current state of racial issues in America, all three are leaning against protesting the same way this season.

The buzz around Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem — and his current unemployment — is talked about on a semi-regular basis in the Titans’ locker room. This group of three “woke” players, as Casey calls them, started to communicate with one another about a unified plan of action, but they expect to discuss it more this preseason.

“Did protesting really change much last year? I don’t really think so,” Casey said. “We gotta find a better way. Protesting on a Sunday doesn’t do itself justice because we did that last year and there was only more uproar, without much change.”

The three players, in addition to Titans receiver Rishard Matthews, all believe Kaepernick is being blackballed and figure many of their NFL colleagues feel the same. Woodyard believes Kaepernick is better than 90 percent of NFL backup quarterbacks.

“I know there are guys who want to take a knee or stand up as well, but a lot of people come to this league from nothing. Job security is everything,” said Matthews, who was a college teammate of Kaepernick’s at Nevada. “It’s not a secret that guys who protest on teams might be gone.”

His opinion was swayed over the last year since Kaepernick’s anthem protest began. Matthews initially disagreed with the protest because of his military support and the fact that his half-brother died in Afghanistan while serving the United States. However, Matthews now says he realizes all sides of the argument, including players who won’t protest out of fear.

No matter the players’ final decision, their actions will be unified like their 2016 protest. Starting a foundation or group movement and getting on the front line to create change in their own community are a few other options the trio discussed.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey supported his players’ right to protest last year, but he hasn’t heard any rumblings about it this season.

“I haven’t talked to them about it,” Mularkey said. “I haven’t given it a second thought, honestly. I probably won’t say anything about it.”

All of these issues are important to some NFL players across the league. Jones sat at his locker after Wednesday’s practice, watching a video of a white supremacist group beating up a black man in Charlottesville last weekend. He simply shook his head.

“The Charlottesville thing over the weekend with the riots really caught my eye. It’s very disgusting what’s definitely going on,” Casey said. “We can’t be afraid to voice our opinions about this.”

Added Woodyard, who says he has experienced racial discrimination from police dating back to high school: “I feel like America is in a bad place right now, with all the racial tension. We have to be better than our ancestors were. It’s 2017, and we’re still struggling with issues we had in the 1930s.”

Casey called for even more NFL players to come together and figure out a way to use their platform to effect change.

“We’re going to keep standing up for what’s right on our side. And if they can’t see the injustice, then that’s where the divide is going to be,” Casey said.

Matthews then recalled what veteran receiver Harry Douglas told him: “We’re men that play football. We’re not just football players.”

Ben Jones Jersey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans center Ben Jones is scheduled to appear in his 100th career game on Sunday, which is kind of a big deal since he’s never missed a game in his NFL career.

Only one other active NFL lineman has a current games streak as long as Jones’ streak, which speaks to the seven-year pro’s durability, and toughness.

It’s also a reflection his mother, a big believer in Neosporin and Super Glue.

“My mom said: If I am not carrying you to the emergency room, you better get up,” Jones said with a smile. “She didn’t carry me to the doctor for two years, and I had a broken leg. It’s the mindset she instilled in me, and being the youngest brother, you kind of just learn to roll with the punches. I am trying to be the most stable guy for the quarterbacks so they know they have the same guy in there. If I am able to go, I am going to go.”

Jones has started all 35 games at center for the Titans since joining the team as an unrestricted free agent from the Houston Texans in 2016. He also played in 64 consecutive contests to begin his career with the Texans. Only Kansas City right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (also 99) has a current games played streak as long as Jones’ streak.

A former Georgia Bulldog who grew up in Alabama, Jones said his mother, Vickie, taught him all about being tough. Jones lost his father when he was just 10, in a helicopter crash.

In that same year, Jones suffered a blow to the head with a baseball bat, which caused a blood clot to develop in his brain and fractured his skull. He had brain surgery, and that’s about the only thing that kept him out of athletics.

And he dealt with some “stuff.”

“When I was young I cut my throat from ear-to-ear – I hit a barbwire fence on a bicycle,” Jones said. “We are in Bibb County (Alabama), in the middle of nowhere. And my mom just super glued it back together. I had a baseball game that night, and she said, ‘We’ll handle it on Monday. She said you’re talking, so your vocal cords aren’t ripped, so it ain’t that deep.’ She put a little Neosporin on it, and the Super Glue.

“She’s definitely a Southern farm woman, and she made me the man I am today.”

Titans coach Mike Vrabel said he appreciates how Jones does his job.

“He loves being around his teammates, he’s a great teammate,” Vrabel said of Jones. “He’s tough, he’s smart, he gets us in the right line calls. He’s always available, he seems to be at practice all the time. Again, those are good qualities. You’re a good teammate, you care about the team, you put the team first and you’re durable. We can fill a roster with guys like that.”

Jones knocked on wood this week when talking about the streak, something he wasn’t aware of until his wife, Alex, sent him a screen shot of a Twitter post on the subject earlier in the day.

On Sunday, Jones will take the field against the Eagles, looking to block for quarterback Marcus Mariota and the team’s running backs. He can’t imagine not being out there.

“That’s my role – I am going to play no matter what,” Jones said. “If I am able to get up and walk, I am going to stay out there no matter what. That’s been my mentality since I was a kid.”

Brian Orakpo Jersey

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Brian Orakpo knew it was time when his body started talking to him.

Ten years in the NFL add up, and eventually Orakpo had to start listening to his knees, elbows, shoulders and almost every muscle and ligament in between. On Dec. 31, 2018 the four-time NFL Pro Bowler announced his retirement.

“I can still play if I want. That’s a no-brainer,” Orakpo told 247Sports. “But it’s do I want to continue to endure to endure what pro athletes have to endure on a daily basis? This is the first time my body talked and I actually listened. Once you start having those thoughts –things like seeing your kids grow up – you know. It was my time.”

Orakpo’s long-planned his next step. He and former Tennessee Titans/Texas Longhorns teammate Michael Griffin own a franchise of Gigi’s Cupcakes in Austin – well documented in a Microsoft commercial – and Orakpo formerly partnered with Texas Tea. But there’s a particular project he’s formulated behind the scenes for a while: Athlete Connect.

A company founded by Orakpo’s brother, Mike, Athlete Connect is a hub in which trainers can connect with athletes seamlessly. Think Angie’s List but for sports. A former all-conference player at Texas State and currently a trainer, Mike came up with the idea as he sought ways to reach a new client base.

“There were only so many athletes I could reach in (Houston),” Mike Orakpo said. “I wondered what could be done. They have things like Uber and Lyft, and I was wondering if there’s a way for trainers to connect with local athletes. That’s how it all started.”

Mike told his brother about this idea years ago, and the app is something they formulated while Brian played in the NFL. They’re going “full go” with the project now that Brian is retired.

The concept is straight forward. There are over six million children who participate in tackle football, per the Athlete Connect website. Yet, according to their data, there are only 276,000 coaches. There are even fewer private trainers. The Orakpo brothers hope to make it easy for kids who seek private instruction to track down a coach who suits their needs. This could be a QB, linebacker or ever offensive line coach. Athlete Connect wants trainers of all sorts.

Trainers will go through a background check before being added to the app pool. From there, athletes can sort potential trainers by either location or position. Much like an Uber, there will be a rating system that allows the best trainers to rise.

Brian said the app is currently in its beta phase, but they hope to launch this summer. The app will have a heavy Texas flavor early on given the Orakpo brothers’ ties. But they plan to launch the app nationally, leaning on Brian’s NFL connections to find soft landings in large markets.

“This is just another opportunity for trainers to get their name out there without marketing themselves,” Brian Orakpo said. It’s so saturated with so many trainers and qualifications. This app allows a trainer to show who’s best without work as far as trying to get your name in the word-of-mouth network. This network is bridging that gap.”

Taylor Lewan Jersey

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One of the game’s biggest personalities took objection with another lightning rod for controversy, and, nearly a week later, the verbal jabs are still being thrown.

Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan got into a postgame altercation with Redskins’ cornerback Josh Norman on the Washington sideline after their Week 16 game because, well, let Lewan explain.

“Listen,” Lewan said Friday ahead of the Titans’ game against the Colts on “Sunday Night Football” (7:20 p.m. CT, NBC) at Nissan Stadium, “the whole thing was, (Norman) pulled on Derrick (Henry’s) leg. Derrick said he didn’t think he was hurting him. I saw the play. I’ve never seen somebody tackle somebody on the ground and gator-roll like that or whip him around. And I went and said something to (Norman) on his sideline after the game.”

Lewan then mocked Norman with a bow-and-arrow-celebration. Norman, who was sitting on the bench after the Titans had won 25-16 to eliminate the Redskins from playoff contention, got up, threw his helmet at Lewan, slapped his arm, and got in his face before the scuffle was broken up.

When speaking to Redskins reporters on Wednesday, Norman said: “(I’ll) put it like this: You come to your front porch and he’s squatting on it. He’s taking a big, fat dump on your porch.

“Maximum disrespect.”

Lewan did not disagree.

“Was it disrespectful? Yes. Was it meant to be disrespectful? Yes,” he said. “So, I mean, if he’s got a problem with that, man, I ain’t worried. Wolves don’t care about the opinions of sheep.”

Norman insisted he wasn’t trying to hurt the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry — “How can someone hurt someone who’s 265 pounds?” he said — before taking a shot at Lewan’s pass-protecting.

“What he should have been worried about is his quarterback, because of how our (defensive) line just ran through him like water through rocks,” Norman said. “I mean gosh. You would think he would have been doing a better job protecting him than worrying about a running back who’s 260 pounds.

“That’s what he should have been worried about, the sight of his quarterback walking off the field with something wrong with his arm. That’s what you should have doing. But he didn’t. He decided to pick on a cornerback who had nothing to do with him.”

Lewan would not address whether he was fined for instigating the altercation.

“Even if I (was), it wouldn’t be important,” he said. “The only thing that is really important is this game on Sunday.”

Quinton Spain Jersey

Quinton Spain joined the Buffalo Bills last week via one-year deal. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any player more motivated on the team’s entire roster.

Spain joins a packed house on Buffalo’s offensive line. The interior of the offensive line is where the 27-year-old guard has played for most of his career. There the team added Spencer Long and Jon Felicano prior to bringing him in.

Those three will compete with Wyatt Teller for Buffalo’s two starting guard spots on paper, at least. Competition fuels Spain. It always has.

Just looking on his social media accounts, it’s easy to tell. On social media he goes by the name “Mr. Undrafted.” In 2015, he entered the NFL after going undrafted, joining the Tennessee Titans. Years later, Spain said that motivation is still there.

“That’s going to motivate me until I’m the last lineman from that draft class still in the league,” Spain said to the team’s radio show.

The 6-foot-4, 330-pound lineman said the Bills’ offensive line coach, Bobby Johnson, told Spain he’s going to have to earn it once again if he comes to Buffalo. Spain, who’s started for most of his career with the Titans despite his draft status, said he respected that in the Bills.

“Nothing’s going to be handed to you. You’ve got to earn it. When he told me that, I felt like, OK, so he’s for real. It’s about competition. Nothing’s given. He’ll treat everybody the same,” Spain said.

While not re-signed by his former team this offseason, mostly because many dubbed him as a bad fit for their zone-blocking scheme, Spain still finished last season with good marks from Pro Football Focus.

The football analytics outlet graded him as the NFL’s 35th-best guard in the NFL in 2018.

The other thing potentially working against Spain could be his lack of versatility. He has college experience playing tackle, but has solely played guard at the NFL level. If he does not win a starting role, he could be a cut candidate for the Bills at the end of training camp.

Regardless of starting or not, which Spain expects to, he said he plans to build an all-important bond with his teammates on the Bills’ line.

“It’s going to be a great competition and I just want it like brotherhood,” Spain said. “I hope we can get on and I hope I can bring everyone together like I did in Tennessee and have that bond. If you have that bond then you know you can count on that guy beside you.”

Tajae Sharpe Jersey

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At the Titans’ most questionable position, wide receiver Tajae Sharpe is providing a highly sought attribute: reliability — in big moments, no less.

Did you see the space he created on third downs in the Titans’ 20-19 loss to the Chargers at London’s Wembley Stadium on Sunday? He caught five balls on third downs, all of which went for a first down. In fact, all seven of his catches went for firsts. His reception total matched a career high and his 101 receiving yards were a new high.

“It’s always good to be able to get opportunities in this league because you never know when they’re going to come,” Sharpe said.

It was merely the continuation of a trend for the receiver, who over the previous three weeks had five third-down catches to give the Titans’ a fresh set of downs.

“I think that’s what happens,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “The more you perform and you make plays, the more opportunities come your way. That’s how it goes … You catch the ball, you get conversions, then the quarterback tends to look your way because, ‘Well, it worked the last time I threw it to that guy.’ So those are huge. Being able to convert third downs in this league is critical. So lately Tajae’s been a great asset for us to convert those.”

And quarterback Marcus Mariota has a reliable target, a prized — and rare — commodity since tight end Delanie Walker was placed on injured reserve and wide receiver Rishard Matthews was released.

“Tajae’s done a great job for us,” Mariota said. “We’ve kind of moved him around here and there. For him to understand the offense, understand his role, I’ve got to tip my hat off to him. He’s doing a great job for us.”

So the Titans have an emerging No. 2 receiver. That’s the good news. The bad news is they still are not past their receiving problems by any stretch of the imagination.

Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor both had crucial drops on perfect strikes by Marcus Mariota in the fourth quarter. The Titans rank second-worst in the NFL with 6.3 percent of their passes dropped, according to ESPN.

Taylor was wide open when Mariota hit him in stride. But Taylor let the pass come to him instead reaching for it, and it clunked off his chest before falling incomplete. In Davis’ case, he tried to one-hand a catch on third-and-7 when he could have just as well used two hands.

“It just got on me quick so I just reached out with one hand. That was kind of my reaction,” Davis explained. “But I mean I’ve got to go up with two to make those plays. I expect myself to make those plays.”