Graham has not been a game-changer, has changed his game with Titans

Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 10:59pm

This was not the first time Daniel Graham changed teams.

Even so, the 2011 season has been like none other for the veteran tight end.

“I wuld have liked more playing time, more plays, but they brought me here to be a backup, to help the other tight ends improve their game and be a leader on this team,” Graham said. “This is the first time in my 10-year career that I came off the field.

“In my first nine years I never came off the field.”

Graham was one of six veteran free agents the Titans signed during the post-lockout scramble. For the most part, those players did for the Tennessee as they had done other places such as was the case with former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

Graham, though, had to adjust to more than just new surroundings and teammates.

In five years with New England and four more with Denver he averaged just under 25 receptions and — following his rookie season — started all but two games he played over an eight-year period.

With the Titans he has been credited with seven starts in the first 14 games but has made minimal contributions on the stat sheet. He has just two receptions for 25 yards with a touchdown.

“My body really doesn’t feel like it has before [late in the season],” he said. “I’ve been out here just trying to help the other tight ends improve their game and pass along some of the things I know about the game to them.”

Craig Stevens has been the every-down tight end and Jared Cook has been a regular receiving threat. Cook, in fact, has 37 receptions, which is one short of Graham’s career-high set back in 2003.

Graham has been a voice of authority, though. Having won two Super Bowls with New England and having been to two Pro Bowls, he has experience few, if any, can match. Plus, only Hasselbeck has been in the league longer among players on the active roster.

Last Sunday, for example, when rookie Tommie Campbell was assessed several penalties in a short period, it was Graham who was first to speak to him on the sideline … after coach Mike Munchak got through with Campbell, that is.

In the tight ends meeting room, his input on any number of matters is a constant.

“He’s experienced and he has knowledge on everything,” Cook said. “… We all get along great.”

A look at how the rest of the Titans’ preseason free agent additions have fared:

• Matt Hasselbeck, quarterback. He is the only one of the group who has started every game, although in recent weeks he has had to play through arm and calf injuries in order to do so. He threw at least one touchdown pass in each of the first nine games but has just one in the last five.

• Barrett Ruud, middle linebacker. He started each of the nine games he played but his season was cut short by shoulder and groin injuries. The latter landed him on injured reserve in early December, and the play of rookie Colin McCarthy in his place made it seem likely Ruud would be looking for a new team next season.

• Shaun Smith, defensive tackle. Give that he weighs 325 pounds, he was critical to the team’s effort to add more beef to the defensive front. He has started just six gmes but his 41 tackles already are more than he had last season at Kansas City, when he started 10 times.

• Jordan Babineaux, safety. He earned the nickname ‘Big Play Babs’ despite the fact that he started just 29 games over seven seasons with Seattle. He has started 12 of 14 this season and enters the final two weeks as the team’s leader in tackles. He also has forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass.

• Anthony Smith, safety. Like Ruud, his season ended prematurely with a spot on injured reserve. He made eight special teams tackles in 13 games and added four tackles with two passes defensed as a situational substitute on defense.
 

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