NASHVILLE, Tenn. >> The renovations Tennessee started this offseason with a new general manager are making quite the impression, and the Titans proved today they’re nowhere near finished as players reported for training camp.
Tennessee added seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson to the roster Friday as the Titans walked into their headquarters to find a swanky, revamped locker room awaiting them along with hallways redecorated in a building that originally opened in 1999. The indoor practice facility isn’t scheduled to be ready until Aug. 10, but the redecorating done over the past five weeks left the Titans impressed with ownership’s commitment.
Linebacker Brian Orakpo can’t wait to show off the mural of himself on one wall of the team meeting room to his wife and children.
“It exceeded all of our expectations,” Orakpo said. “I know we talked about it throughout OTAs and the offseason, but I mean coach and the rest of the staff and everybody else on board making these changes definitely did it big. We’re definitely excited. This is something you want to come to work each and every day. This is what a winning organization looks like.”
Winning isn’t something this franchise has done much of the past few seasons, dipping to an NFL-worst five victories combined over the past two years.
Coach Mike Mularkey said he started talking to controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk about the changes needed around the facility after being promoted to interim head coach last November. Once general manager Jon Robinson was hired, Strunk approved a laundry list of improvements with the locker room and indoor practice field at the top. Even landscaping and new artwork for the walls in the hallway were included.
The stadium also has had all the seats replaced with new red paint making it look as good outside as the day it opened in August 1999.
The roster itself has had almost as much changeover with more than 40 percent of the Titans new to Tennessee with Johnson the 37th new player added either through free agency or the draft. Safety Rashad Johnson, who left Arizona to sign with Tennessee, said all the changes amps up the excitement the Titans already felt about training camp starting.
“When you come in and see ownership and the leadership of this organization invests in the building and also invests in us when they do that it just changes the atmosphere,” Johnson said. “There’s a great energy in the building today. It feels like a refreshness coming back from this time off and the guys are just really excited. … It’s a great thing.”
Marcus Mariota arrived in Nashville a few days before training camp opened and worked with some of his wide receivers to hone their timing after the break. He said the Titans can’t become complacent with the new surroundings.
“We can’t just let the new facilities be it,” Mariota said. “We’ve got to use that to the best of our abilities and establish some type of confidence going into the year.”
The latest addition is Johnson, the 13-year veteran who ranks eighth in NFL history with 1,053 catches and ninth with 14,100 yards receiving and 68 touchdowns. The third pick overall in 2003 spent his first 12 seasons with the Titans’ AFC South rival, the Houston Texans, where he is the franchise’s all-time leading receiver. He played last season with Indianapolis, where he caught 41 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns.
Mularkey said Johnson is in great shape and has only been promised he will compete for a starting job — the same promise made to all of the Titans as training camp opens. Johnson would have led Tennessee receivers with his receptions last season, and will be a big boost for young receivers like Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter. Johnson was flying into Nashville on Friday night and should be on the field for the first practice Saturday.
“He thinks he can still play at a high level,” Mularkey said of Johnson. “We’re going to give him an opportunity to compete.”
Notes: Mularkey said rookie OLB Kevin Dodd, the 33rd pick overall in the draft, will start camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Dodd had preventative surgery in late May on his right foot, and Mularkey said Dodd could be cleared soon.
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