New locker assignments help Titans know each other better
TERESA M. WALKER
Aug. 02, 2015
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Defensive lineman Karl Klug is considered the Tennessee Titan most likely to get into a fight during training camp.
Thanks to a shake-up in locker assignments, Klug could find himself sitting right next to the offensive lineman he just fought.
That's not going to stop Klug.
"When we get in a fight, it's never personal," Klug said.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt certainly wants what happens in the Titans' locker room to be very personal.
It's why he reassigned lockers before training camp, shaking up a room that had been divided with the offense and defense on opposite sides grouped together only by position since this franchise moved into the building in 1999.
Whisenhunt did this coaching in Arizona and didn't have time for locker assignments once hired by Tennessee in January 2014.
For a franchise that went 2-14 in Whisenhunt's debut season, getting to know each other better can only help.
"It's really more about being a team and having a relationship with guys that maybe aren't in your group that you don't see a lot," Whisenhunt said. "It forces you to talk and communicate and hopefully build a stronger team."
Now linebackers find themselves next to tight ends, and defensive linemen Klug and Ropati Pitoitua are sprinkled among the offensive linemen.
Safety Michael Griffin, who's been on this roster longer than any other player going into his ninth season, now has rookie wide receiver Tre McBride to his right. Tight end Craig Stevens has rookie linebacker Deiontrez Mount to his left and cornerback Coty Sensabaugh on his right.
Linebacker Avery Williamson deserves a little credit too for the changes. He heard veteran tight end Delanie Walker talk about how San Francisco's locker room forced the 49ers to talk with teammates, so Williamson approached Whisenhunt this offseason about doing the same thing here.
The coach made the changes before training camp, leaving even Williamson trying to figure out where to find his locker. Offensive lineman Fernando Velasco has that spot beside linebacker Zach Brown. Williamson now is on the other side of the room next to Walker.
The linebacker going into his second season said he was both excited and nervous about the changes, but sees the Titans mingling together more.
"I feel like team bonding is necessary," Williamson said. "If the team's closer together, I feel you have a higher chance of winning games. That's something that we didn't have last year. ... I feel like we needed that. When we're coming in the locker room from off the field mad at each other, we have to sit next to the offensive guys and we still have to be friends in the end."
Running back Dexter McCluster now faces the showers two slots down from cornerback Jason McCourty and across from Griffin, a pair of players he called great leaders.
As an offensive player, McCluster didn't spend much time with defensive players last season — his first in Tennessee — because players spend so much time in meeting rooms with teammates who play the same position.
"It's a little different, a little weird, but it gives you a chance to know our other teammates as well," McCluster said. "I think it was a good move to build that team camaraderie and move guys around and build different relationships."
Only one row remains unchanged: The quarterbacks remain on the back wall with punter Brett Kern on the end next to the wall. Kicker Ryan Succop also wasn't moved, leaving Brown joking he was glad not to have a kicker next to him.
Having a new neighbor means some rules must be made very clear. McCourty gave wide receiver Justin Hunter some leeway for having reporters crowded around his locker only on the first day of camp.
Borrowing shampoo is just fine, but Walker said ask first. Left tackle Taylor Lewan is a bit sloppy after practice dropping tape and equipment on Pitoitua's seat beside him.
"Ropati's not big on words, kind of just looks at you and grunts like a caveman," Lewan said. "When he gives me the look, I move my stuff."
Notes: Marcus Mariota practiced in pads for the first time Sunday. The rookie quarterback has gone three straight practices without being intercepted, though three of his passes were dropped Sunday. ... The Titans will be in pads again Monday night before their first day off of camp Tuesday.
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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker