Titans' offensive line finally working together on field at camp, eager to meet Munchak's goal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Munchak has made it clear he wants Tennessee's offensive line to be able to take over games this season.
The Titans took their next big step toward that goal Thursday when left tackle Michael Roos, new left guard Andy Levitre and right tackle David Stewart all lined up for the first team snap at the first training camp practice.
Stewart spent the offseason recovering from a broken right leg. Levitre, the centerpiece of an offseason signing spree in free agency, had been busy recovering from offseason knee surgery. Roos was limited by a sore back.
The missing piece is rookie right guard Chance Warmack, who remains unsigned.
"It feels good to be back out there and the recovery ...," Stewart said after practice. "We're just testing the waters right now. That's the first real live action I've had since it happened."
Stewart broke his leg Dec. 2 on the opening series against Houston, one of four starting offensive linemen whose season was ended by injury in 2012. The Titans worked this offseason trying to make that position a strength again under Munchak, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman.
Levitre got a $46.8 million deal, Tennessee also signed Rob Turner and Chris Spencer along with Kasey Studdard and Barry Richardson. Warmack was the 10th overall selection in the draft from Alabama, while center Brian Schwenke was a fourth-round pick.
Munchak also has made it clear that he wants them taking control for a franchise trying to rebound from a 6-10 record. If the Titans win, Munchak says it'll be because the offensive line is a lot better than last season.
"We need to take over games better than we have," Munchak said. "So that's the challenge for all of us, and the players know that. They're excited about that, and that's the plan. That's how we think you win."
The Titans ranked 26th averaging 313.1 yards total offense and 21st with 105.4 yards rushing. But no offense spent less time on the field in 2012 than Tennessee at a mere 27 minutes, 18 seconds per game.
Roos said he likes the pressure Munchak is putting on the linemen. He and Stewart are going into their ninth season in Tennessee, and Roos said the offensive line meeting room is now theirs.
"We've been here the longest, we know how the system works," Roos said. "We know what (offensive coordinator) Dowell (Loggains) wants, what Munch wants and what (offensive line coach) Bruce (Matthews) wants. So it's on us to make sure everybody stays up to that standard and works hard to achieve that."
The Titans rotated players Thursday on the line with center Fernando Velasco also working at right guard with Turner taking turns at center. Schwenke also took some turns at left guard as the Titans eased Levitre back into full team work.
Velasco said he joked with Levitre when they lined up beside each other for the first time in a team drill.
"You can see the kind of player he can be," Velasco said of Levitre. "He is a real strong player, and he has a real strong punch. I think he's going to be a good player for us."
Now the linemen are busy building the kind of chemistry and communication that only comes when lining up beside each other blocking against a defense.
Talking together in meeting rooms or while watching practices during the offseason can only do so much. Blocking next to each other is a dance that requires linemen to be in rhythm.
Roos said last year he stepped on Steve Hutchinson's feet a few times early simply because he wasn't used to a new left guard's steps.
"It's unfortunate we've had some injuries during the spring and summer that we haven't been ... been able to gel like we want to early on," Roos said.
"But luckily, Andy's a fifth-year guy. He knows what it takes to win. We've done plenty of talking in meetings and on the sideline about how I see things, how he sees things, how to communicate something."
Stewart's looking forward to his first chance to work beside Warmack.
"He's got to get back first," Stewart said.
Notes: New RB Jackie Battle was on the field after being signed Wednesday. Munchak said they wanted to increase competition for the job behind Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene. ... The Titans hold their first open practice of camp Friday night.
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