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VOL. 42 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 7, 2018

Schedule makers give Titans odd December

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The Tennessee Titans seem to have caught a break with the latter part of the schedule – four home games in the month of December, and most of them against sub-.500 opponents. But a closer look reveals a hazard, a number of short-week games.

Beginning with last Sunday’s win against the New York Jets, the Titans find themselves playing on a short week and/or an irregular schedule for most of this month.

Their Monday night loss in Houston on Nov. 26 started a stretch of three games in 11 days, culminating with Thursday night's 30-9 home win against Jacksonville.

That will give them a 10-day gap before playing at the New York Giants on Sunday, Dec. 16, before a Saturday home game against the Redskins.

Cumulatively, that’s more schedule adjusting than NFL teams are normally asked to make.

One of the things that players and coaches rely on most during the course of a season is developing a set routine and following it as closely as possible each week to create normalcy and repetition.

Simply put, players and coaches are creatures of habit. And throwing in short weeks of preparation are a big adjustment.

“It’s a complex problem that these short weeks present in multiple games because you have a routine and a body clock,” veteran linebacker Derrick Morgan explains. “Your body is used to waking up at a certain time, getting a certain amount of sleep, getting a certain amount of lifts in a week.

“So when you’re on a short week, you’ve got to turn your attention to the mental side of it, the mental preparation and know how hard you can push. You don’t want to burn yourself out, but you still want to stay in shape and stay tuned up. It’s a very gentle balance you have to find during these weeks.”

It is also a gentle balance for first-time head coach Mike Vrabel, who admits he’s still learning about changes in preparation on the fly.

Vrabel seemingly found the right formula coming off the Titans’ first Monday night game in Dallas. His team bounced back on short rest/preparation to stun the New England Patriots the following Sunday.

So the coach went with the same approach when preparing for Sunday’s game against the Jets.

“You have to look at the practice schedule and see how much you can do, and who’s available, (what) the health of the team is like after a short week, what rest do they need, can you push the schedule back a little bit,” he explains. “It worked coming off a Monday night (against Dallas) with New England.

“So we kind of stuck with that same schedule. I would guess as you go on in your coaching career, that when you try things and they work, you try to stick with them.

“And when you try things and you go, ‘I didn’t necessarily like that’ or ‘I didn’t like the way the team responded or I didn’t like how it went,’ you probably change it. I liked how it went with New England, so we’ll probably stay with the same routine.”

Another key on a short week is to budget what time you have wisely. Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert says it’s important both physically and mentally.

“It’s about learning how to catch up on film, get a jump start on film and do it quicker on a short week, and being able to manage the extra time when you have a Monday night game, and really just use that time to prepare your body as best you can,” Gabbert points out. “You’re mentally and physically fatigued from games. It takes a big toll on your body, and the faster you can recover (the better).

“I know we’re going to start preparing our bodies for next Thursday night right after Sunday’s game just because of the quick turnaround.”

The Titans were already preparing for the Jaguars – with only three days in between games – as soon as they capped their rally against the Jests on Sunday.

“I’m going to get a massage in about an hour, get that going and get to bed early,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said in Sunday’s postgame. “These Thursday night games are tough any way you slice it, but we’ve been doing it, and everybody does it.

“It’s our third game in 11 days, but we’ve just got to try to finish strong.”

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for