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VOL. 41 | NO. 35 | Friday, September 1, 2017

Tanney hopes Nashville is not his last stop

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Quarterback Alex Tanney, who is trying to make the Titans roster for the second time, is unlikely to take the No. 2 QB job from Matt Cassel and has exhausted his eligibility for the team’s practice squad.

-- Ap Photo/Mark Zaleski

By the time you read this, it is possible that Alex Tanney might have already thrown his last pass as a member of the Tennessee Titans.

But Tanney, even if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster in Tennessee, says he won’t stop pursuing his dream. As the Titans closed out the preseason in Kansas City on Thursday, the dread of impending roster cuts turned into reality this weekend around the NFL.

It’s a feeling Tanney knows well.

Last year, after making the Titans’ initial roster, he found himself eventually waived and back on the practice squad for most of the 2016 season.

Now Tanney no longer has practice squad eligibility in Tennessee after having served most of three years in that role.

He either has shown the Titans enough to convince them to keep a third quarterback on the roster – Matt Cassel seems secure as Marcus Mariota’s backup – or he will begin looking for the next stop in his nomadic career that includes time with seven different clubs and an appearance in one NFL game. That came in the 2015 season with the Titans in relief of Zach Mettenberger.

If you’re keeping count, Tanney has been in camp or on practice squads with the Chiefs (2012), Cowboys (2013), Browns (2013-14), Buccaneers (2014), Titans (2014-15), Bills (for one day in 2015), Colts (2015) and back to the Titans (2015-present).

You can also add to that that he turned down the chance last year to leave the Titans’ practice squad for a spot on the Browns’ active roster, saying it wasn’t the right fit.

So Tanney, who turns 30 in November, has been around. But he longs to be known for more than the YouTube video of trick shot passes made several years ago.

“I grew up around this game,” says Tanney, who played college football at Monmouth (Illinois) College.

“My dad was a high school football coach. Both my brothers played, and I’ve loved this game ever since I was in grade school.

“Going to college at a small school, I didn’t really know if I would have an opportunity to play in the NFL, but once I got some interest, I worked my tail off to get to where I’m at now.”

Despite his travels, Tanney remains confident in the pursuit of his football dream.

“I have confidence that I can play in this league,” he says. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t still be in it.

“I learned early on in this league that there are 31 other teams that are always watching and evaluating film.”

Tanney has a point. Maybe he just needs the right opportunity to show his talent. After all, right inside the Titans’ own division in the AFC South, relative unknowns Tom Savage and Scott Tolzien may be poised to start season openers for the Texans and Colts, respectively.

Unknown and unproven backups still earn paychecks all across the NFL, so why not Tanney, who enters 2017 with more career touchdown passes (one) than Savage and one less than Tolzien?

Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, who will have some input but not the final say in Tanney’s future in Tennessee, says the journeyman is good enough to play at football’s highest level.

“Absolutely. I definitely think he can play,” Robiskie says. “I think he’s got all the touches and throws. He’s got the mechanics of it. He’s been sharp with our offense, operating it and knowing what we’re doing. Do I think he can play in the National Football League? Absolutely.”

There are others, closer to Tanney than Robiskie, who keep the faith in the quarterback’s NFL aspirations, as well. Tanney’s wife of three years, Rebecca, has been a rock for him through his trials and travels. And he has a new fan in his 2-week-old son Gunnar, who was born the day the Titans held the first of two joint practices with the Carolina Panthers.

“We’ve been married three years. She’s a little bit younger than me,” Taney says. “This is the first place I’ve been where she’s been able to stay with me.

“She got out of school, and she works at Saint Thomas Hospital as a physical therapist. She’s been a great support system. With all the transactions I’ve been involved in, she’s been there and she’s been great, very supportive. She’s helped a lot.”

And it helps Tanney’s peace of mind to just focus on the task at hand and not worry about being released or having to find a new team.

“I try not to think about those things,” he says. “It’s just part of the NFL. I think I’ve been around long enough now not to think about those things.”

If Tanney needs any extra inspiration in his quest to find a home in the National Football League, he can look a short distance from his locker at the one occupied by linebacker Erik Walden.

Walden is now in his 10th NFL season and his first with the Titans. But the former MTSU star didn’t take the normal path to pro football success.

In fact, before Walden broke through as a starting linebacker with the Green Bay Packers in 2011 he was waived by the Cowboys, who drafted him in 2008, Chiefs and Dolphins.

Walden says he took nothing for granted in his struggles to stay in the NFL, and really didn’t even begin to feel secure about his career until he was in his fifth season (third with the Packers).

“Probably year five,” Walden said. “I knew I could play, but it was about getting in a certain situation and about timing. Your team might have two guys already, but you might fit somewhere else, so it’s all about timing.”

As for his advice to players who will fall through the cracks in Tennessee and come up shy of making the 53-man roster here:

“Control what you can control,” Walden says. “Don’t really worry about the other things or start counting numbers and looking around and let doubt creep into your mind. You just control what you can control and stay positive.”

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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