Mike Munchak remembers only too well his first NFL game and not knowing how long pre-game warm-ups were, what to do or even when to head back into the locker room before kickoff. He says he didn't even think about the game he was so worried about the pre-game procedures.
Now a head coach, Munchak put his Titans through a mock game Saturday at LP Field to get them ready.
"I always thought that this is what you want to do," Munchak said. "Bring them over, get that all out of the way. They didn't even know where to park. I mean these guys haven't been over to the S lot. I think all those things are just little things you want to cover, give a peace of mind. Then Thursday, they just worry about playing football."
A year ago, Munchak had his Titans work against the Atlanta Falcons to break up training camp and prep for the preseason opener. Munchak said he likes practicing against another team every year if they can work it out, but that didn't happen this year.
So the Titans headed to LP Field to prep for Thursday night's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.
To create a more game-like atmosphere, the mock game was open to season-ticket holders, and about 5,000 turned out. The Titans got to glance up at instant replay on the massive videoboards at each end of the field. Beer vendors worked the aisles, the team's cheerleaders entertained at halftime and the team mascot gave out plenty of T-shirts.
The Titans also simulated the game by using headsets with defensive coordinator Jerry Gray upstairs with other assistants in the coaches' box, while senior defensive assistant coach Gregg Williams was on the sideline along with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggans. They even used photos to check between series to see what the defense was calling.
Jake Locker started a bit slowly and was 3 of 8 early. But he settled down and finished 16 of 26 with three touchdowns, though officials and Munchak counted a fourth TD to Kenny Britt where he only got a foot down. Cornerback Jason McCourty even complimented Britt on the "good catch out of bounds."
Locker was 6 of 7 in a 2-minute drive before spiking the ball with 7 seconds left on the clock to set up a field goal try in another drill.
"It's nice to end in the green zone with the TD to Kenny Britt," Munchak said. "You hope you're going to see a lot of that. The 2-minute drive driving us down for a field goal, that was good again."
Locker seemed to warm up with a 30-yard pass to Kendall Wright. He followed up his first TD to Britt a few plays later with a 1-yard toss to tight end Taylor Thompson as the Titans worked on situations.
"It felt good," Locker said. "You know the defense threw some looks at us we hadn't seen yet, so they threw a few wrinkles in we had to get adjusted to and I thought we were able to do it and put a couple good drives together."
Another touchdown pass to Wright was completed only because defenders couldn't sack Locker, and end Derrick Morgan tapped the quarterback who continued rolling on out to his right and tossing the ball out to his receiver. Morgan also helped collapse the pocket around Locker earlier, but the defensive end focused more on the plays the Titans gave up.
"We made some progressive steps in the right direction. We just have to keep being critical of ourselves to be where we want to be," Morgan said.
• Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews headed to catch a flight up to Canton as Hall of Fame linemen themselves, and pass rush assistant coach Keith Millard was going with them. Millard was a former Minnesota teammate of receiver Cris Carter, who was being inducted into the hall Saturday night.
• Jackie Battle, fighting for the third running back spot behind Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene, showed more of what the Titans saw last season when he gashed them while playing for San Diego. He also had a nice return on a squib kick. Darius Reynaud, trying to fight off Battle, Jalen Parmele and Marc Mariani for a roster spot, also had a good return himself.
• The Titans are off Sunday.