VOL. 41 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 8, 2017
Titans set 2nd 'training camp' next week in Arizona
Titans strong safety Johnathan Cyprien hopes a week in the desert will add a late-season hop to the Titans’ step. “You have no choice but to get closer when you’re put in those situations,” he says. -- Ap Photo/Mark Zaleski
Road trip! The Tennessee Titans are trying something a little different for a two-game swing out West beginning with this Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Sometime back in the off-season, team officials decided the Titans, rather than make two consecutive cross-country round trips, would only make one and stay in the Pacific time zone for the week in between the games with the Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers.
Come Friday, the Titans will pack up and head to Arizona to play the Cardinals. They will then stay in their hotel and practice at Arizona State the following week in preparation for their Dec. 18 game with the 49ers.
Mike Mularkey admits this is the first time he has ever tried anything like this in his long coaching career, but he says this is the right move with everything factored in.
“A lot of research went into it in the off-season,” Mularkey says.
Of course, back-to-back games at NFC West opponents played a huge role, but factors even as detailed as the time of year and potential weather conditions in Tennessee also played a part in deciding to stay in the West.
“Looking at all the options, looking even back to where we would be here weather-wise, we didn’t want to be caught here where we’d have to be in the bubble on the turf, if we could help ourselves,” Mularkey explains. “The travel obviously had some big play into it, and I think it’s good for our team to be around each other this time of the year where we’re at. I think it’s going to be good for just getting closer than we already are.”
The players have already been given an itinerary of what the road trip will be like to help prepare them for travel and also to keep them focused on the purpose of the trip – trying to win two football games.
“I don’t think it’s going to be as challenging as people think. This is a pretty locked-in team right now,” Mularkey says. “They know where they’re at, we know what we have to do.
“We went over logistics this morning to kind of get it all out of the way, so when we come back in here Wednesday there’s no more talk of travel, lodging, meals, all that stuff.”
Safety Johnathan Cyprien hasn’t done a two-week road trip before but does have extensive travel experience with the Jaguars, who made a yearly pilgrimage to London to play one game a season.
“Actually, that’s the closest to it (I’ve come), going over to London,” he says. “We would stay there for an extended period of time. One time, we actually stayed an entire week. That was in a whole different country, but I think I’m definitely used to staying in a different place.”
Given that players will be eating, rooming and spending free time together, the Titans are somewhat hopeful this will be a training camp-like bonding period.
“I’m assuming it’s going to be that way. I haven’t done this before, I would think it would be that way,” Mularkey says. “We’re going to be around each other a lot, and I think these guys like being around each other, I do.”
Cyprien says that bond will form almost by osmosis with so much time together for players and coaches away from practices and meetings.
“We’re stuck together. We’ll be stuck together, kind of like college where you go to practice, go to class and sleep in the same rooms and you’re with the same guys all day. You have no choice but to get closer when you’re put in those situations,” he says.
At least one Titans player certainly likes the idea of getting away to the Arizona desert for a week. Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan is looking forward to the trip, especially because that is where he is from.
Sunday will be a homecoming in more ways than one for Lewan, who won a high school state championship in the Cardinals’ stadium several years ago.
“I am excited about the opportunity to go back home,” he says. “I haven’t played in that stadium since the state championship game, so that’s cool. I am excited about it.”
Despite the different plan and locale, the Titans are trying to keep the situation business as usual.
“It’s all about the Cardinals and it will be,” Mularkey says. “Again, we’ll talk about next week as next week approaches. But, this week is all Cardinals. But, not much is going to change from the schedule other than leaving Friday.”
Cyprien, world traveler that he became with the Jaguars, offers some levity on the matter: “At the end of the day, it’s still a green field that we’re going to be going out there and playing on.”
Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com