It’s a business.
That’s what we hear all the time from professional athletes. They say it when they hold out. They say it when they wrestle with whether or not to play injured.
They say it, but few of them really believe it until the business side of things actually slaps them in the face.
Rarely, if ever, has that been more apparent in regard to the Tennessee Titans than in recent days. In case anyone doubted or had forgotten that players are commodities above all else, there have been reminders.
First, coach Jeff Fisher on Sunday explained his decision to pull quarterback Vince Young by saying, “You know, I wasn’t concerned honestly about his feelings at that point. I was trying to win the football game.”
Then, three days later in a stark and candid conference call with Middle Tennesse media, former Titans’ linebacker Keith Bulluck laid bare the nature of the team-player relationship in the NFL. He discussed the limited communication between management and the locker room; he intimated that coaches play favorites; and made clear his belief that a team will say anything publicly to placate the fans with no regard for the impact on a particular player.
Some of the highlights included:
• His take on whether or not the Titans offered him a contract during the offseason (the Titans said they did):
“That's bull---- because I was in Arizona. I rehabbed with the Titans for the first two months, then I was in New York for the next two. … I worked out with the Giants. Once everyone heard that I had a great workout with the Giants and then, you know, that I'm healthy and everything, I think that's when everyone started.
“ … Those people know my ... If I was working there for 10 years, I have a house there still, those people have my number, so if they really were trying to get in touch with me, trying to sign me and do all of that stuff, I'm sure my phone would have rang, my agent's phone. I even know for a fact that we sent out footage of me training this offseason, you know what I mean? I asked my agent several times if the Titans gave him a shout, and that didn't happen.”
• On the fact that two other high profile players who left the organization after last season, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Kevin Mawae, likewise had stories that conflicted with those of the Titans:
“I haven't spoken to Kyle Vanden Bosch or Kevin Mawae since last year, and do you find it odd that we're saying the same thing? … That's just how they do things down there man.”
• On his relationship with general manager Mike Reinfeldt:
“I don't talk to him. I don't know. I don't got no relationship with Mike Reinfeldt. … I was laid up in the training room, and I actually asked Mike Reinfeldt, you know, what was up. And the answer that he gave me was somewhat of a joke. So, you know, it is what it is. It's not that serious. You know, it's all a part of business.”
• On Titans’ coach Jeff Fisher:
“Jeff's a good coach man. Jeff is cool, Jeff is real cool. … Jeff has been a player in this league and he has different ways to talk to his players.”
• On the decision to pull Young at the start of the fourth quarter in last Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh:
“They're 1-1 right? So we were 0-6 last year and we were getting our ass kicked in New England and the quarterback (Kerry Collins) didn't get benched. No, I wouldn't say I am surprised.”
• On his current feelings about the Titans as an organization:
“I don't have any ill feelings towards the organization. I'm thankful that this is the organization that drafted me and gave me the opportunity to become the player that I've become back in 2000. I'm definitely grateful and thankful for that. The only thing that did bother me was that, you know, the whole after I signed with New York because, like, honestly and truthfully before that, there was no communication with anyone. And just like everything that took place after that kind of bothered me and pissed me off a little bit because I know the hard work that I put in to put myself in a position to get on the team, and of course I would have liked to have been with the team that I was with for the past decade. You know, that wasn't able to happen. They never reached out to me, so, you know, I did what I had to do, and the aftermath of that, we all know. So that kind of annoyed me a little bit. But other than that, it's just business.”