Jordan Babineaux checked three bags for his flight to Nashville.
That’s pretty much all anybody needs to know about what his intentions were before he signed a contract with the Tennessee Titans on Friday, not to mention what they are now that he’s arrived.
“Let’s just say I brought enough [clothes] to stay,” the veteran safety said following his first practice with his new team.
While Babineaux, an eighth-year safety, was in the process of packing, conflicting reports surfaced about his plans. One had him headed to Tennessee, where he was a known quantity to several key staff members, and another had him set to re-sign with Seattle, where he broke into the NFL as an undrafted free agent and spent his first seven seasons.
The reason for the confusion remains unknown to Babineaux, who made up his mind to join the Titans following conversations with some notable acquaintances, including defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, the Seahawks defensive backs coach last season.
“Jerry is a big reason why I am here,” he said. “I trust that Jerry will put me in position to make plays and give me the opportunity to have success here. With that being said, it kind of made my decision to come here a little easier. … I even spoke with pro personnel director Lake Dawson. Lake Dawson came from Seattle. He has some familiarity with me as a younger player when he was there in the front office in Seattle.
“So that was quite an influence to come here and see some familiar faces.”
The familiar feeling only deepened early in Friday’s afternoon workout — Babineaux’s first with the Titans — when he intercepted a pass thrown by former Seahawks’ teammate Matt Hasselbeck during one-on-one work between receivers and defensive backs.
“Tell him I said, ‘Thanks,’” Babineaux quipped. “I know Hasselback. He’s got a lot to learn and he’s teaching at the same time. What greater presence to have at quarterback than a guy like Hasselbeck?”
Unlike the quarterback, who was signed with the obvious intent to be the starter, exactly what the team expects from Babineaux is unclear. The Titans have experience at safety with Chris Hope and Michael Griffin, but their experience includes two seasons at the back end of a top 10 pass defense (2007 and 2008) followed by two in the bottom four (2009 and 2010).
“He’s definitely going to compete,” coach Mike Munchak said. “I mean a guy would hate to hear you brought him in to back up, but yeah at this time it’s so early. He’s got the advantage of knowing Jerry, working with Jerry last year in his system so they’re familiar with each other, which is a huge plus for an athlete.
“We’re hoping that all these guys compete, and they have to compete like they’re going to start because one injury and they are starting. We want that mentality that they feel they can start and play in this game.”
Babineaux’s only season as a starter was 2009, when he set a career-high with 104 tackles. Even so, he has intercepted at least one pass each of the last six seasons and 10 overall and has forced at least one fumble in five of the last six with seven overall.
“There’s no need to even kind of overstate what something really is other than I have to make the best of what time I’m given,” he said. “If I go out there and make plays, then the chips will fall where they may and I’ll be out there more.
“The thing for me and the thing that matters to me the most is that if you give me playing time, I’m going to give you performance.”