Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITO
PHOENIX – NFL head coaches gathered at the NFL owners meetings this morning for the annual coaches breakfast.
After finishing off some scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, Vrabel talked for an hour with reporters.
Some of the highlights:
1. The Titans will have an “individual development plan” for tight end Delanie Walker when he returns for the offseason program following his season-ending ankle injury in 2018.
Vrabel complimented Walker for being a great resource for him, and the team.
“He is going through his rehab process,” Vrabel said of Walker. “We are not rushing anything. He has caught a lot of footballs in his career. … Delanie may be doing something different (in his return) than (other players) would be doing. Some days he may not be out there, he may be in there rehabbing in the pool, or in the weight room.
“There will be different things he’ll need to do based on where we are with him (from a physical standpoint).”
2. The Titans plan to monitor recently signed pass rusher Cameron Wake’s snap count, but he made it sound like the team isn’t afraid to turn him loose.
The team plans to rotate players like last season, yes, but …
“Cam still has a lot of juice,” Vrabel said of the 37-year-old Wake. “I can’t believe the shape that he’s in, his body. … If he’s out there, and he’s dominating, we’re not going to bring him off the field. But I think you have to be conscious of where he’s at and how he feels.”
3. Quarterback Marcus Mariota can do some things to help keep himself healthy, from “knowing when the journey is over” to potentially getting stronger.
But Vrabel said the Titans also need to do a better job of protecting him, and calling plays to keep him from taking unnecessary hits.
“We’re excited that Marcus is our quarterback,” Vrabel said. “I just think the durability of the player is critical. We only have so many guys. … Being available is critical, at the quarterback position, running back, etc. We are looking forward to getting Marcus back on April 15.”
4. Vrabel promoted Arthur Smith to offensive coordinator earlier this offseason, and the former tight ends coach has taken the job and run with it.
Smith replaced Matt LaFleur, who’s now head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
“He is so excited,” Vrabel said of Smith. “I am so happy for him. He is taking control. He is including everybody into the offense. I go in there, and I stop in there, and they have a packed house (of coaches) and they are talking through stuff. … He is trying to get the groupthink idea on how we can enhance this play and ultimately Arthur has to make a decision.
“It’s been fun to watch him take this opportunity.”
5. Vrabel talked about his desire to get the Titans “out of the middle” at the NFL Combine last month, referencing the team’s 9-7 mark the past three seasons.
He went there again on Tuesday when asked how he could be a better coach in Year 2.
“I think we all have to figure out how we can go from good to great,” Vrabel said. “We have to go from good to great. … I am hoping that I am more consistent preparing the team, because there were times we played like a really good football team (in 2018), and there were times when we didn’t. And I have to figure out why, and figure out how we can be more consistent in our efforts each and every week.”
6. Running back Derrick Henry “ran hard, he ran angry and ran with a purpose” during the second half of the 2018 season, Vrabel said.
Vrabel said it’s a team effort when the running game has success, and the Titans will need to carry it over when the team kicks off the 2019 season.
“We’re going to have to give them plays we’re comfortable with, and they know,” Vrabel said, “and they can execute at a fast pace.”
7. The Titans still haven’t made a decision on tackle Jack Conklin’s fifth-year option.
Vrabel said the Titans want Conklin to continue to develop and improve, and the contract decision will be another matter.
“Right now, the most important thing is Jack gets back and that he is healthy,” Vrabel said, “and he is becoming the right tackle that we want him to be. … He has been great. I’ve seen him there rehabbing, and seen him there working out.”
8. Vrabel discussed the team’s options at guard, opposite recently signed Rodger Saffold, formerly of the Rams.
He made it clear offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile is an option at guard after working at tackle during the 2018 season. Vrabel said Pamphile was needed to play tackle last year before he was injured, and now he has a chance to compete inside.
“I think part of the reason he was excited to come back was because we felt like he would have a chance to compete at a position inside,” Vrabel said.
9. Vrabel said having safety Kenny Vaccaro in the offseason program from the beginning rather than joining the team late like last offseason should help with chemistry and communication.
While speaking about Vaccaro, Vrabel spun off and praised cornerback Malcolm Butler and how he finished last season.
10. Vrabel didn’t spend much time discussing the team’s reported interest in former Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who was traded to the Raiders.
“I would say we’re not interested now,” Vrabel said.
11. Vrabel praised Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.
Vrabel said Strunk has made coaches and players feel comfortable, and “she really allows (GM) Jon Robinson and I to do our jobs. She wants a winning football team, and loves this organization.”
Vrabel said Strunk took the entire Titans contingent at the owners meetings to dinner on Monday night in Phoenix.
“There are certain things, when she wants something done, she has no problem telling Jon and I to do it, and I appreciate that,” Vrabel said. “She’s the boss.”
12. Vrabel was asked on numerous occasions about Rob Gronkowski, the former Patriots tight end who announced his retirement earlier this week.
“He’s a great player, great career,” Vrabel said. “You can only do it for so long and he is doing it on his terms. He is walking away at a time that he can enjoy his life.”
13. Vrabel has been sporting a mustache this offseason, and he said it’s drawn mixed reviews.
His wife, Jen, apparently is not a fan.
Will it be his look in 2019?
“I would say, I didn’t know it was going to be this big of a deal, how I choose to groom,” he said with a smile. “Jen hates it, some people like it. … Who knows? I had the beard for so stinkin’ long, I was like, ‘Let’s just change it up.’
“We’ll see what happens when the season comes around.”
Lucky 13: Thirteen Topics With Titans Coach Mike Vrabel at Tuesday’s Breakfast at the NFL Owners Meetings
Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITO