Cardinals' presence stirs emotional extremes in Titans' assistant

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 10:41pm

Dave McGinnis wastes no time rattling off the names of the three players on the current Arizona Cardinals’ roster who were there when he was the head coach seven years ago.

“There’s Adrian Wilson, Reggie Wells and then Gerald Hayes,” McGinnis, a Tennessee Titans’ assistant since 2004 said.

Yet just as clear in his mind as those he saw Wednesday, when the Titans and Cardinals conducted a joint workout, is one who’s no longer around – Pat Tillman, the one-time defensive back who walked away from his professional football career and enrolled in the U.S. Army in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Pat Tillman in one way or another,” McGinnis said.

Tillman ultimately was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Initially, military officials said he died under much different circumstances and posthumously awarded him a Silver Star for his courage under “devastating enemy fire.”

The affair is the subject of a documentary called The Tillman Story, which is playing this week in New York and Los Angeles and is scheduled to be released throughout the country in the the coming weeks.

McGinnis was forced to face his emotions over Tillman’s death once again when he was interviewed for the movie and understands he’ll have to do so once again when he sees it, which he plans to do.

“I think it’s … the message is something that is very important, but it’s always so painful when it comes back up,” McGinnis said. “It has not gotten any less painful for me since the day that I heard it. That will always be a hurt in my heart.

“It hits me now just talking about it.”

Similarly, his feelings about the Cardinals and many of the people who work for that team are unchanged, albeit a bit surprising to some. The same is true for the city of Phoenix and the state of Arizona.

“I think I can still be the mayor of Phoenix,” he said. “There’s some very, very good people in that organization. … I still have a home in Phoenix, and my wife and I were very involved for eight years in the community. I have a lot of real close friends, a lot of real deep roots. I still can’t go back in that town and buy a meal at a restaurant.”

He was defensive coordinator for the franchise from 1996 through 2000 and then head coach through 2003. He was 16-33 during a stretch when they finished with a losing record 20 times in 22 seasons.

Following Wednesday’s workout, it might he visited with his former players and members of the training and equipment staff.

“Here’s the key to me: You have hard feelings toward the people who deserve hard feelings,” McGinnis said. “Everybody else is your friend. You can’t just put a blanket over it. We had a wonderful life there. A wonderful life.”

One that included time spent with Tillman, whose life ended more than six years ago but clearly has not been forgotten.

“It’s a real story about a real guy and a real person who was very, very special,” McGinnis said. “It makes me extremely, extremely, extremely sad.”


• Thursday will be the final day of Titans’ training camp, and they will play their third preseason game Saturday at Carolina. Then they will have more week of preseason workouts before they begin their regular season routine.

“We have to focus now on Carolina, because we travel Friday,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “So, we’ll have a walkthrough in the morning and we’ll have a practice where we’ll compete a little bit in the front end of practice, but most of the practice will be familiarizing ourselves with the Panthers.”