Finnegan restores reputation as 'perfect pro,' tone-setter for Titans

Monday, September 19, 2011 at 4:34pm

He walked out early in training camp, but cornerback Cortland Finnegan showed up right from the outset Sunday.

Finnegan knocked down the first two passes thrown by the Baltimore Ravens, added a third before the end of the contest and made five tackles in the Tennessee Titans’ 26-13 victory at LP Field.

“He came out playing,” coach Mike Munchak said Monday. “I mean he came out hitting and knocking balls loose.

“For a defense, especially, that’s contagious in a big way. They all want to make a play when they see what he’s doing.”

The Titans held the Ravens to 229 yards of total offense and deflected seven passes overall. In a Week 1 loss at Jacksonville, that unit did not break up a single pass attempt.

Finnegan seemingly overcame his brief departure early in training camp – a move motivated by dissatisfaction with the progress of negotiations on a contract extension – when he was named defensive captain by his teammates.

Now in the final year of his current deal, the 2008 Pro Bowler is showing his value to the team in a real way.

“He played well last week and I think it was the same thing [Sunday],” Munchack said. “… Since we got through that first week of training camp he’s been nothing but a perfect pro. He practices hard – the guy has a great work ethic, he’s a great example to the guys on defense.”

Winning ways: Perhaps because the Titans won just once in their last 10 regular-season games they were unfamiliar with what it takes to celebrate.

It was mostly newcomers involved in the Gatorade bath Munchack received following Sunday’s victory. Free agents Daniel Graham and Shaun Smith along with reserve offensive lineman Fernando Velasco performed the actual dump.

“The quarterback [Matt Hasselbeck] started it and I, being the big guy, tried to finish it,” Smith said.

Hasselbeck, also a newcomer, refused to take credit for the idea but did say he organized the effort.

“It was somebody else’s idea but it was a pretty good idea,” he said. “… I got the guys that had more muscle than me to take care of that.”

Injury update: Munchak said wide receiver Damian Williams (hamstring) is the biggest question mark heading into the week.

“We’ll have to see how his hamstring is [Tuesday] … to see how much he can do on Wednesday,” Munchak said. “We’re assuming everyone will have an opportunity to play this week.”

That includes safety Chris Hope (shoulder) and defensive end William Hayes (shoulder), both of whom also sat out the Baltimore game.

Quote of note: “We’ve by no means think we’ve arrived. . . . We’re a hard-working group. We’re grinders. We’re going to be here ready to work on Monday and what the win helps you do is have more confidence in what you’re doing.” – Munchak, on the effect of the first victory.

Notable numbers: 0 – second-half touchdowns allowed by Tennessee’s defense. Opponents have just three field goals (two by Jacksonville, one by Baltimore) in the third and fourth quarters.

1 – fumble by the Titans (guard Jake Scott recovered it) thus far. They had nine in the first two games last season.

29 – points allowed by the Titans through two games. Only once in the previous 12 years have they allowed fewer at the same point. That was 2008 (17 points allowed), when they finished an NFL-best 13-3.

• 271 – receiving yards for Kenny Britt, which is more than the season totals for all but five Titans receivers in 2010.

• 607 – net passing yards by Tennessee, which had 609 through four games in 2010.

Travel plans: The Titans’ next opponent, the Denver Broncos, plan to come to town Friday, a day earlier than most.

“We’re going to leave on Friday because of the time zone change, but we’ll work on a normal schedule Wednesday and Thursday, as well as Friday,” coach John Fox said. “We will conduct our Saturday walkthrough practice in Nashville.”

Denver (1-1) is in the mountain time zone, which is a difference of just one hour.

“We are trying to be at peak performance on Sunday, so just to get the trip out of their systems and feel a little bit better on that second night’s sleep,” Fox said.