In re-signing safety Kevin Byard to a five-year contract, the Tennessee Titans locked up an elite player for the foreseeable future. More than that, though, they ensured that a talented corps of players in the secondary will stay together for a while.
That continuity allows the members of the Titans’ secondary to develop a close bond with each other, which can pay dividends both in the locker room and on the field.
“It helps us a lot,” said cornerback Malcolm Butler. “Everybody wanted to be back with each other. We’ve got great chemistry, we get along, we can say whatever we want to each other and no one’s going to get mad about it, because we are held to a certain standard.
It plays a good role on this team. Certain players can’t say things to other players without them getting mad, without them drawing bad blood with each other on the same team… but it’s different here. We can say what we want to each other and not have a bad grudge, and we’ll still be friends. We can still go out to dinner. We still can look each other in the eye, sit beside each other. That counts a lot, and it makes the team stronger.”
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Head coach Mike Vrabel, who has frequently emphasized the importance of teammates being able to communicate without the fear of offending each other, agrees with Butler’s sentiments.
“I would hope that we’re creating those in the second year,” Vrabel said, “not only player to player, but player to coach, coach to coach. That those conversations that we maybe had last year can be quicker and more efficient because we’re getting to the point. I think that you have to have trust in order to do that.”
Safety Kenny Vaccaro, who the Titans also signed to a contract extension during the offseason, believes that Byard and other members of the secondary sticking around will really aid communication moving forward.
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“When we first started practicing together last year, [Byard] would tell me to do this, and there’d be a pause,” Vaccaro said following the Titans’ first day of camp. “There was no pause today. It was like “I trust you, you got my back, I got your back. It was like I had been here for 3 or 4 years with him.”
When it comes to Byard, in particular, his teammates on the backend of the defense are especially glad that he’ll be sticking around.
“It’s great, man. It’s well deserved,” Malcolm Butler said of Byard’s extension. “I’ve really seen this guy, within one year, be a leader on and off the field, be part of the community. He just does things the right way. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing, but you know, he’s a little bit ahead of his time. He acts older than his age, and that’s probably why [general manager] Jon Robinson had the courage to pay him.”
“Proud of him,” Vaccaro said. “He came for like three weeks and stayed with me. We trained together, I saw every drop of sweat We grinded together. He deserves it all. He’s not just my teammate, he’s one of my best friends.”
Vaccaro, Butler, and Byard are all under contract with the Titans for at least another three seasons beyond 2019. Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson will have one year left on his rookie contract after 2019 with the potential of a fifth-year option after that.
Cornerback Logan Ryan, who is sort of the odd man out in this situation, will be an unrestricted free agent after 2019.
Cover image: Steve Roberts/USA Today