Titans' lockout limbo could be eased by June minicamp

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The NFL lockout has left all players on all teams on their own. The Tennessee Titans face some added challenges.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan is trying to answer some of them by scheduling the Titans players' first real minicamp next month. He has been in contact with first-round draft pick Jake Locker and expects him to attend the June 8-9 workouts if he can gather enough teammates together.

Finnegan is among up to 15 Titans who have regularly gathered for sprints and exercise on a nearby high school field, and Vanderbilt University has opened its weight room to them as well. The rest of the roster is scattered around the country, with players choosing to stay close to their offseason homes.

Finnegan said he's antsy to test himself in real drills against a receiver, something he hasn't been able to do during this lockout. It doesn't help, he said, that coaching changes and an uncertain quarterback situation has left the Titans behind the competition.

"It's a tough place to be," he said.

Linebacker Gerald McRath calls it limbo.

"Nobody knows," he said. "I don't know. Cortland doesn't know. (Long snapper) Ken Amato doesn't know. You've got the guys that have been here for a while, right now we're just in limbo stage."

The Titans aren't the only team that changed coaches at the end of last season, but Mike Munchak was the last hired in a move that didn't come until February, after Jeff Fisher's departure.

Quarterbacks such as Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning can gather teammates together with a quick call. But Vince Young is on Tennessee's roster only until the lockout ends. Rusty Smith has joined Finnegan in workouts at Father Ryan High School, but he was a rookie last year.

Locker is expected to compete early to be Tennessee's new starting quarterback, but the No. 8 overall pick in last month's draft won't receive a penny from the Titans until he signs his contract the lockout ends.

Running back Chris Johnson, the Titans' top star, has been working out on his own mostly in Florida, just as he did the previous two offseasons. Right guard Jake Scott, Tennessee's player representative, has stayed in Nashville and is among those regularly lifting weights at Vanderbilt.

Finnegan and safety Chris Hope helped start the workout sessions at the high school in March, but nobody has been able to pull together a majority of players for much beyond conditioning work. Compare that to Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who helped pay the training costs for 33 of his teammates to join him in Georgia this week.

"See, Richard Seymour got $22 million in Oakland," Finnegan said with a laugh. "(I don't) have cash like that. If I had it, we'd talk about it. If I was Drew Brees, maybe we'd get it done. But not anytime in this lifetime."

Finnegan knows it would be tough for the offensive and defensive linemen to work against each other. He's hoping for at least a skeleton version of 7-on-7s and the chance to go against a receiver.

"Honestly, players just want to gauge where other players are at," he said. "Guys are making big statements about them getting it in, working and wanting to win Super Bowls, but (then) sitting at home. We want to make sure everyone's working.

"They say they are, they are. We also just want to come together as a team."

Cornerback Jason McCourty and McRath joined Finnegan, defensive end Dave Ball and Smith in a workout Thursday.

McCourty, who spent April in Nashville and a couple of weeks this month at home in Nanuet, N.Y., has tried yoga and boxing sessions to improve his conditioning. He said he often goes to lunch with Finnegan and Hope after a session.

"It's not the whole team," McCourty said, "but it's a core of us that are building relationships, so you know that's key to chemistry of the team and moving forward when the season finally starts."

McRath said this isn't easy for players still chafing after the Titans went 6-10 last season after a 5-2 start. The intensity of the workouts will increase with better attendance, and he said that will help each player improve.

"Maybe it can be a small steppingstone that can put us ahead of some other teams that aren't able to meet," McRath said. "I'm very aware there are other teams having full practices right now. They have the advantage. It's up to us as the players to continue to push this thing forward.

"I know we're in a lockout. At the same time, we've got to take a responsibility as a team that we stay together."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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