Knowing Tennessee was rumored to be a potential landing spot for the four-time NFL MVP, Hasselbeck was not in total shock.
“I’ve got tremendous respect for Peyton Manning, the player, who he was at Tennessee, who he was in this division…he’s a four-time NFL MVP and probably one of the top five quarterbacks to ever play the game,” Hasselbeck said. “With Tennessee being rumored, I almost expected that because of who he was in the state. It wasn’t a shock to me.”
Still, it left the veteran quarterback and his family in limbo.
“You really don’t know what the future holds,” Hasselbeck said. “There were no guarantees that I was going to be back here. If Peyton Manning had chosen to come to Tennessee, I would not be playing for the Titans next year, and that would have been unfortunate in my mind because I haven’t been here long.”
Despite being here less than a year, Hasselbeck and his family have fallen in love with Nashville, a place they didn’t want to leave.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “It kind of had that reputation going back to last year when we were deciding what team to go to…so many players when they’re done playing here, they stay here. That was exciting, and we’ve seen that in the short time we’ve been here.”
After the Seahawks decided to part ways with Hasselbeck last off-season, the veteran quarterback signed with the Titans prior to the start of training camp. Hasselbeck was swayed at the time by Titans executives Mike Reinfeldt, Ruston Webster and Lake Dawson, all of whom were with Hasselbeck at one point during his tenure in Seattle. This time, he had to trust the same individuals that brought him to Tennessee throughout the challenging process that finally ended Monday when Manning announced his decision to join the Denver Broncos.
“All I could go on was that they were being honest with me in the process. As a player, I think that’s all you can really ask for,” Hasselbeck said. “If the owner wants to make a change and pursue somebody in free agency, that could happen on any team, anywhere at any time. I guess for me at the end of the day, I get it. With the Peyton thing, I get it.”
The competitor in Hasselbeck made him feel like, ‘Hey, I got this,’ but he also realizes being an NFL quarterback requires thick skin. There’s no such thing as hurt feelings.
“Part of playing quarterback is being able to be coached, being able to handle criticism well, being able to handle criticism by your coach or by outside factors,” he said. “What has resonated to me a lot with ‘Munch’ (head coach Mike Munchak) is the same thing — just be a pro. At the end of the day you can always hang your hat on that.”
Hasselbeck has done just that, staying quiet throughout the process until finally speaking with local reporters today. He said he’s looking forward to reuniting with his teammates and strength coaches Steve Watterson and Jason Novak when the team begins its offseason program next month. He’s also excited about this coming season.
“I feel like we have a good thing going here in Tennessee,” Hasselbeck said. “If I had to make the choice this year like I did last year, I still would choose Tennessee. I like what we have going here.”
That includes working with the franchise’s future quarterback, Jake Locker, a close friend who Hasselbeck stayed in touch with last week.
“There’s just something important about going through things together,” Hasselbeck said. “As a positive, we all kind of went through this together. We all kind of sat back with our hands tied. We couldn’t do anything about it. we just sat back to see what would happen and we made it through.”
Now Hasselbeck can put this past week behind him, returning to the situation he was in before the Manning pursuit began.
“I’m excited that I get a chance to kind of finish what we started here,” he said. “I’m very confident in my ability to get it done as a quarterback. Bottom line, we’re just happy to get to stay in Nashville.”
Tags: Matt Hasselbeck
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