Commentary: Titans would be wise to follow Bernard Pollard's lead

8:33 AM, May 15, 2013   |    comments
Bernard Pollard/AP
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Commentary by David Climer, The Tennessean

New arrival Bernard Pollard's assessment of the Titans' revamped approach to defense:

"It's smack-you-in-the-mouth football. It's fight-you football."

Almost brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

These are encouraging words for a defense that desperately needs more of an edge. For the last several years, the Titans defensive style was just this side of passive. They gave up 471 points, the most in franchise history, last season. The Packers scored 55 points. The Bears hit them for 51.

Talent was lacking and leadership was in short supply. With a Super Bowl season in Baltimore on his résumé, Pollard brings a refreshing attitude adjustment to the Titans.

"All I can do is lead by example," he said. "I flip that switch on the football field. I hope everybody's got switches because if they don't, this is the wrong sport to be in. ... We can't give anybody a heart to go out there and be something he's not."

So far this offseason, the Titans have added six veterans on defense and continue to pursue pass rusher John Abraham. Coupled with a draft class that includes three defensive backs, a defensive end and a linebacker, that's a lot of turnover.

But a roster makeover is one thing. A philosophical rewrite is another. By bringing in Gregg Williams, the Titans signaled they plan to be much more aggressive. Pollard's comments reflect that.

With Pollard, it's not just talk. His reputation precedes him. He is known around the league as a heavy hitter. His pass coverage skills at safety might be suspect, but his physical presence is unquestioned.

The Titans haven't had a true tough-guy safety since Blaine Bishop. More recently, Chris Hope was a solid technician and a good leader but was not considered a big hitter. Tank Williams had his moments before injuries overtook him.

"If a guy comes across the middle, if a guy comes up to you, if a guy wants to pick a fight, we as a defense are going to fight and ask questions later," Pollard said. "... We're going to beat him down."

I'm not sure how comments like that are going to play at NFL headquarters. With so much focus on concussion issues, Pollard's take-no-prisoners approach does not fit the league's preferred script.

He's already in Roger Goodell's crosshairs. Pollard has spoken openly about rules changes aimed at lessening head injuries, suggesting in an interview with Clark Judge of NFL.com in January that taking too much of the violence out of the game could lead to the end of the NFL as we know it.

"It's going to be a thing where fans aren't going to want to watch it anymore," he said.

Pollard puts his facemask where his mouth is. He has been fined several times by the league office in his seven-year NFL career for hits that were deemed to cross the line. Among them was a hit on Wes Welker last season that cost Pollard a reported $15,250.

Now we have the combustible mix of Pollard and Williams, who is coming off a one-year suspension for Bountygate.

"Coach Williams is very passionate about what he's out here doing," Pollard said.

Between Pollard and fellow free-agent acquisition George Wilson, the Titans should be able to keep Michael Griffin at his preferred free safety position. Griffin struggled when forced into the strong safety spot early last season.

Playing next to Ed Reed last season, Pollard led the team in tackles despite suffering a rib injury in Week 2.

"He knows what it takes to get there," said Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers. "He knows what a winning team looks like. We're trying to flip the culture here. We're trying to change the way we play defense - our mind-set and all that."

It's about time.

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