Ryan Fitzpatrick joked last week that the on-field workouts at the NFL Combine are the “Underwear Olympics.”
The veteran Titans quarterback, however, plans to watch some of NFL Network’s coverage of the activities that more than 330 draft-eligible players take part in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Offensive linemen and tight ends began four straight days of timing and testing drills Saturday. Quarterbacks, receivers and running backs have the option of going Sunday, followed by defensive linemen and linebackers Monday and defensive backs Tuesday. Click here for NFL.com’s results tracker.
Team executives, coaches and scouts will take a more comprehensive look at the performances, but Titans general manager Ruston Webster said the timing and testing drills and workouts are just one part of the evaluation process. Webster was asked last week about their value.
“It’s helpful to those guys that work out well. I think you have to be careful not to put too much on the workout and make sure you go back and watch the film,” Webster said. “I think that happens every year. I think teams come in here and players work out really well. Everybody talks about them rising up the charts and then you go back and watch film and really in the end, that’s where people are going to draft off of.”
The Titans were able to schedule 15-minute interviews with 60 of the prospects, and scouts spent the fall evaluating players on film and learning more about them in a search “for the best football players we can find,” Webster said.
“The thing we need to make sure is they’re competitive, tough guys that are going to work and have the talent to play well in the league,” Webster said. “I think if we get enough of those guys, we’ll win.”
Tags: NFL Combine, Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
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What can be learned or accomplished in 15 minutes?
Titans general manager Ruston Webster, coach Ken Whisenhunt and coaches and scouts have 900 allotted minutes, broken into 60 sessions, to find out.
Tennessee was able to request 15-minute interviews per player with 60 of the more than 330 draft-eligible prospects who were invited to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the 2014 NFL Combine.
The limitations placed on the number of players establish a need for efficiency that is magnified during the sessions.
Earlier this week, Webster talked about what can be learned during the interviews.
“I think it is like anything else. If you come here and watch the guys that work out, there is a group that stands out, there’s a group that might struggle and there is a big group in the middle,” Webster said. “In those interviews we are looking for the guys that stand out or the guys that might struggle. It is helpful, but it is not the end-all, be-all, just like the workout is not the end-all, be-all.
“You do your research on players and try and do as much background as you can, and that has to weigh into it to,” Webster continued. “Somebody just may not be a good interview, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be a good player and it doesn’t mean that they don’t have the right make-up that you want for your team.”
While players know more about what to expect during the interview process and have placed emphasis on practicing their responses, team executives do their homework during the season to find out background information. There can be metaphorical green, yellow or red lights that flash during or immediately after interviews.
“There are certain things that come up through the years that surprise you, and the guy leaves the room and you say, ‘Did he really say that?’ They’ve become a lot more rehearsed now,” Webster said. “They used to be a lot more interesting.
“I think the key to questions at the combine is already knowing something about the player. I think you already have some kind of background, that player’s background, or what he’s like, you can ask the right question and get the right response, so our scouts do a great job of researching these players before we ever get in there,” Webster said. “Some of them are really funny, and then there’s those guys that just blow you away with how impressive they are. Those guys usually end up being pretty solid football players too.”
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While assessing potential draft picks is on center stage this week at the NFL Scouting Combine, there’s also an opportunity for Titans general manager Ruston Webster to work on deals to extend players who are scheduled for free agency.
The GM, who is in his third year in the role, said it is important for the Titans to identify the strongest areas in the field of draft-eligible prospects, think about who may or may not be returning and keep in mind players from other teams who may become available through free agency next month.
He said the assessments that team personnel make this week will help guide the Titans through that process, and the results of free agency will likely influence decisions in May’s NFL Draft.
Last offseason the Titans added offensive weapons through free agency (TE Delanie Walker, RB Shonn Greene) and the draft (WR Justin Hunter).
Webster was asked Thursday during a media session about Walker and Hunter and how they will fit in new coach Ken Whisenhunt’s plans.
“I think Delanie (infographic) will be in a similar role this year, and he was really good for us on third down, he’s a good matchup in those situations. Delanie is a very competitive guy and he really stepped up for us,” Webster said. “I would say Justin (infographic), for somebody that came in, is an improving player. He flashed. He made some big plays, had some big games for us. And he’ll just continue to develop and get better. He has a boatload of talent.”
Tennessee has six draft picks (one in the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds) after trading its 2014 third-round spot and its 2013 second-round selection to San Francisco to move up from the 40th to the 34th overall spot to take Hunter. Webster was also asked if he wished the Titans still had a third-round pick this year.
“Well, I’ll always wish that, but it has nothing to do with Justin Hunter,” Webster said. “I think Justin really flashed and came on. What I was really impressed with Justin was he got a little banged up during the late part of the season and played through it. He blocked and did all those things that we kind of demanded of him, more than just being a big threat as a receiver, and then he stepped up and had some big games for us and helped us win a couple, so I think the future is bright for Justin.”
Tags: Delanie Walker, Justin Hunter, Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
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Titans general manager Ruston Webster told LP Field suite holders and coach Mike Munchak told reporters Monday that they were happy with the decision to play Jake Locker a day earlier, and with how the third-year pro performed in his first action since Sept. 29.
Webster told attendees at an appreciation breakfast how determined Locker was to return to the lineup, proclaiming he’d be able to start against San Francisco the week before during a Saturday practice in Seattle. Webster also described the timeline and evaluation process the Titans used to determine how Locker’s sprained hip and knee responded to physical tests during practices and if they would be OK during the game.
“He felt good. He was adamant about playing,” Webster said. “He really wanted to play and that’s just his makeup and the type of guy he is.”
Locker completed 25 of 41 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns and one interception (his first of the season) for a passer rating of 92.1. He also scrambled three times for 29 yards. Although he took three sacks, the second-year starter protected himself by moving around enough despite wearing a brace that gave his knee additional support.
Munchak said Locker experienced some expected soreness but added “I think he’s very happy he played.”
“He was very accurate early, made some nice throws early. He wants the pick back. That was one of the bad balls he threw, but I thought overall (he was) very competitive,” Munchak said. “I never thought once to take him out of that game. I never once thought it was a bad idea. He’s special that way, and I think that’s why we keep saying when the smoke clears the guy is going to be a winner. We’ve got some work ahead of us this year, but it was a good start for him.”
The alternative of not playing against the 49ers, combined with this week’s bye would have meant a span of more than a month without game competition. The Titans (3-4) return to action by visiting the St. Louis Rams (3-4) Nov. 3.
Former Titans quarterback Neil O’Donnell, who joined Webster at the panel discussion led by Jonathan Hutton of Titans Radio and 104.5 The Zone said a gap that long would make the return more challenging.
“I look at Jake with quarterback’s eyes looking out and I wouldn’t want to miss five weeks because it’s almost like missing the whole preseason and coming back opening day: it’s rusty, you have to adjust to the speed of the game, the timing with the wide receivers,” O’Donnell said. “I thought it was very key that he came back and showed us he was capable of playing. I thought he managed the game pretty well.”
Many Titans players departed for their hometowns or college towns Monday for a quick break, but much of Locker’s bye week will be spent in the training room at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
“He’ll just work his knee, keep going through the rehab, keep getting his leg stronger just like he’d normally do if we were playing,” Munchak said. “He’ll probably get a couple days away from here, which he can do. But he’ll be here. The good thing now is all the ‘Is Jake playing?’ ‘How’s he feeling?’ it’s all behind him now. Now we just, as a team, get ready to beat our next opponent.”
Tags: Jake Locker, LP Field, Mike Munchak, Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
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The Titans have had a busy off-season, filling holes with several new players through free agency and the NFL Draft. But that’s not stopping GM Ruston Webster and his staff from continuing to look at ways to improve Tennessee’s roster.
He told Mike Keith Friday the Titans still have cap room and can afford reasonably-priced players that can help the team this coming season.
“We’ll keep looking. I wouldn’t rule anything out and I wouldn’t be surprised if we sign somebody at some point,” Webster said. “The thing we’re telling ourselves, and we talk about internally, is to keep scouting. Anybody we can find that can help us that we can afford — and that is important right now — we would look at signing them.”
Webster said the team is achieving its goal of adding competition and “wants to put the best team that we possibly can on the field this fall.”
“That’s the goal,” Webster said. “I think we’re much improved and if we can continue to improve, we will.”
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They did so last year in Dalton, Ga., and both sides deemed it a success.
With Thursday’s announcement showing the Titans hosting Atlanta in the third week of the preseason, the question was broached to Titans GM Ruston Webster.
“We’ve talked about that and we’ll just have to see if it works out with both of our schedules,” Webster said. “We had great work with Atlanta last year. I really felt like it was good for us and Coach Munchak felt like it was good for us. We’ve had talks, but we’ll just see.”
Tags: Ruston Webster, Training Camp
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When the Titans go to make their first-round selection Thursday night, there shouldn’t be any panic in the draft room.
That’s by design.
GM Ruston Webster said he and his staff have composed a list of six players that could be available when the Titans make the 20th overall selection in the first round of the NFL Draft.
“We will have a group of six players kind of lined up there how we would take them and when one of them gets taken, somebody else will come on that list and then we will just keep moving up that way,” Webster said. “That way there is no panic in the room and probably not too much discussion.”
Webster said experience tells you that one of the players will be there.
“I guess the point is for us is to have a pool of players and when somebody drops off that list to have somebody else that comes on it, so we will just keep working the list,” he said. “If we have six guys and one guy goes off, then we put somebody else on it.”
Sounds simple enough, yet it’s an effective way to make a prepared, logical selection in a short amount of time when Tennessee is on the clock.
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There is little doubt the Titans will look towards free agency and the NFL Draft to strengthen their defensive line, and it’s a good year to do it, says Titans GM Ruston Webster.
“I think it’s a really good crop. Defensive line in general, I think is good,” Webster said. “Typically, those guys are going to be in the first round because everybody needs them. They’re rare birds. Outside of quarterback, the one position that’s the toughest to build, and the one position where you have to be really strong in order to win consistently, is up front on the defensive line and the offensive line.”
The Titans could use the help. They struck gold on defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug in last year’s draft, but are thin at defensive end with William Hayes, Jason Jones and Dave Ball set to become free agents.
“It’s definitely a need,” head coach Mike Munchak said. “Derrick Morgan is really the only guy playing a lot who is under contract, so that’s definitely an area we’re going to have to look at from both ends — in free agency and the draft. And when the smoke clears, we’ll have some good defensive ends. It’s a matter of where they’re going to come from.”
Munchak would like to possess a combination of veteran leadership and young talent at defensive end. Webster covets a playmaker, similar to what the Titans had in Jevon Kearse back in 1999.
“He changed things,” Webster said of Kearse. “When I was in Tampa, we had Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp. They made everybody else around them better. Those type of special rushers really can affect your defense. They help the guys on the back end, and if you can get a lead on people and rush the passer, you’ve got a great chance to win.”
Munchak spoke of the special player he’d love to find either in free agency or April’s draft.
“You’d like to have a guy that the offense is worried about, a guy that when there’s two minutes left can take the game over, knock the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and win it for you,” he said. “I think we’re looking for those kinds of guys, someone on the edges that can create those kinds of problems for an offense.”
Tags: Derrick Morgan, Mike Munchak, Ruston Webster
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However, he took time out of his schedule to connect with Titans season ticket holders on Tuesday, spending 45 minutes on a conference call that covered topics ranging from the team’s approach to free agency and the NFL Draft, to the progress of wide receiver Kenny Britt and recent rumors swirling around Colts QB Peyton Manning.
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New Titans GM Ruston Webster was the guest speaker today at the Golden Bison Luncheon on the campus of Lipscomb University. He addressed a group of strong supporters of Lipscomb’s athletic program, offering his thoughts on several topics relating to his new role with the team, the direction of the club and the type of players he and his staff will be looking for in free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft.
Here are a few highlights:
(on his philosophy of building the team)
“You have to have a solid foundation with the right type of guys and players that work hard and are dedicated to football. They have to be tough and smart. I know that’s what Mike Munchak wants. It’s important to him that we have solid guys to do the things he wants them to do and buy into what he does.
As a team, I want us to get back to being the old Titans. I remember when I was with the Bucs, when we played the Titans, they played a fast, aggressive, nasty defense. They were physical and they could run the ball. They were always a tough outing. That’s what I’d like for us to get back to – that kind of style of play. Mike Munchak feels the same way. He was here during all of that. That’s really what I want to see us be.”
(on that style of play helping the Titans get back to the playoffs)
“We haven’t won a playoff game in a long time – since the 2003 season. It’s time for us to win a playoff game and go further. And for us to do that, you’ve got to be that type of team. For all the passing yards and great quarterback stats this year, when it came down to it in the NFC Championship game, it was the New York Giants tough, old-school football and it was the San Francisco 49ers tough, old-school football. To get to the playoffs and win, you have to be able to go in the cold weather and run the ball.”
(on the challenge of free agency)
“Unfortunately the business side gets in the way sometimes. You can’t keep everybody you would like to and you have to make tough decisions. Those decisions are not always easy and they’re definitely not always popular. For the most part, I feel like when we make our decisions, and in the past when we made our decisions, we had all the information. You just do the best for your team and for your owner. I think we’ll draft well and continue to build a good, young core.”
(on what his immediate goals are to build the team)
“My immediate goal is to help improve our offensive line and our defensive front seven. That’s going to be our focus moving forward into free agency and the draft. If we can do that – get a little bit more of a pass rush and run the ball a little better — I think we’ll be okay.”
(on Jake Locker’s potential)
“I think we have a good, young quarterback in Jake Locker who just has natural leadership ability, and he brings that toughness and type of temperament in his game. I think you’ll see our guys rally around that.
I was with the Seahawks when Jake started playing at the University of Washington, so I saw Jake play probably two or three games a year all through his junior year until I came here. Jake was a star the minute he stepped on campus at Washington because everybody knew who he was. He was a high-profiled recruit from a little town – Ferndale, Washington – who wanted to stay and play for a state school. He was loved and revered there. You could see early on that he had talent. He has a lot of physical skills and he’s continued to develop his skills as a quarterback. He works so hard at it.
That’s the other thing. He kind of has that ‘it’ factor and people rally to him, gravitate to him. He’s a good guy. He’s solid, and he cares about his teammates and they feel that. We were interviewing a linebacker who got drafted in the third round by the Bucs who played at the University of Washington with Jake and we asked him about Jake – like we do with other players when we ask about their teammates because players know players. If they don’t like their teammate, then there’s probably some issue there. He said, ‘I’ll tell you about Jake Locker.’ He said he would drive from one end of the town to the other to pick up a teammate that didn’t have a car or was having car trouble – and Seattle’s a big city – to get him to workout. That’s leadership, and that’s one of the big reasons we drafted him.”
(on working with Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden in Tampa)
“Tony changed everything because he brought stability to an organization that didn’t have any. He came in with a plan and executed the plan, no matter what anybody said. Tony just did the right thing. His decisions were made based on what he thought was right for the organization and for his team. And then as a person, I’ve been around a lot of guys, coaches and people in high positions and Tony treated everybody the same. No matter what your position was, you never felt like you had to get loud to get your point across. You just had to let him know and he was going to listen and he was going to make his decision. He was awesome in that way, and he, in my mind really saved the organization because of the stability he brought. And then we got good players in there and they all bought into him and loved him. One of the unfortunate things was we couldn’t quite get to the Super Bowl and so Tony was let go, which was unfortunate. It did work out for us when Jon (Gruden) came in and we had always struggled on offense and Jon got the offense going. Jon brought juice to the offense and to the team. He made it to where he put the offense on equal footing to the defense and they challenged each other and it made us really good. They were different guys. Jon’s a good friend and a great guy. It was enjoyable. There was a contrast, but I’ll always look back fondly on both. I learned a lot from both of them.”
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