NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo knows exactly how to handle all the attention the Tennessee Titans are attracting: Remind his teammates not to listen.
“We are going to be preaching to the young guys especially, ‘Don’t buy into expectations. Don’t buy into predictions, power rankings and all that other stuff that goes along with it,'” Orakpo said. “We’ve got work to do, and it starts today.”
The Titans, who went an NFL-worst 5-27 over 2014 and 2015, reported Friday for training camp coming off a 9-7 record in coach Mike Mularkey’s first full season. Marcus Mariota is healthy with a stocked roster, making the Titans a popular pick as one of the AFC’s best headed for double-digit wins, something this franchise hasn’t done since 2008 in its last playoff appearance.
They tied Dallas last season by beating six teams with winning records, most in the NFL. Five opponents reached the playoffs, and five Titans were voted to the Pro Bowl.
“Expectations are high for us inside this building,” Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray said. “Obviously, there is noise outside of here, but we can’t focus on that. We can focus on what we can control.”
The Titans are trying to do just that, taking care of a lot of business Friday.
They agreed to terms with two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey on a contract extension worth four years, $60.4 million, according to ESPN. They also announced the signing of veteran linebacker Erik Walden and the release of offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola , who was wounded by a bullet last weekend in Arkansas in his second offseason incident.
But the Titans start practice Saturday with Corey Davis of Western Michigan, the No. 5 pick overall and first wide receiver drafted, the lone draft pick in the NFL still unsigned. Mariota also was the last of the first-round draft picks to agree to a contract in 2015.
“We are talking to him,” Mularkey said of Davis.
Workers also scurried to finish new bleachers erected at the team’s facility for fans to watch training camp complete with awnings, while reporters got a first look at the newly expanded weight and training rooms.
The Titans have everyone else on hand, including veteran wide receiver Eric Decker who was signed to a one-year deal just after the offseason program ended. He already had a home in Nashville when released late by the New York Jets and said the Titans were the first of five teams to contact him.
Decker, limited to three games last season by hip and shoulder injuries, said he feels as good as he has in quite some time.
“I had a few lingering injuries last year that unfortunately had to be taken care of,” Decker said. “Being away from the game was hard … having to watch it from home and on crutches. But it kind of fueled my fire a little bit. I had a great offseason and got to spend time with my family but got some extended time to work physically and get in good shape.”
Decker joins a roster that Mularkey now believes has enough offensive talent to attack defenses from all angles. Tennessee ranked 11th overall in total offense last season with the NFL’s third-best rushing team.
“However we got to win the game, that’s what we’re going to do,” Mularkey said.
Mularkey, 27-46 all-time as a head coach, has never coached a team to the playoffs in his stints at Buffalo and Jacksonville.
“If we can improve over what we did last year, I think we all know what the reward is,” Mularkey said. “It’s about getting better.”
Notes: Mularkey said Mariota is fully cleared but will have his practice limited as coaches watch his recovery from a broken right leg. LB Kevin Dodd is healthy from a foot injury that cost him most of his rookie season last year. DL Karl Klug (Achilles tendon) is healthy but also will be held back.