Titans' Top Pick Gets First-Team Opportunity

By: Teresa M. Walker, Associated Press
By: Teresa M. Walker, Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Michael Griffin says he's still trying to get comfortable at cornerback after playing safety in college. The Tennessee Titans liked his performance at his new position enough to let their top pick work with the first-team defense Monday.

The chance came as part of the secondary rotation Titans coaches are using during training camp in hopes that competition will sift out the starters. Griffin helped himself by intercepting two passes Friday in a 27-24 victory at New England.

“Things are not set in stone. Everybody's getting an opportunity, and I really don't know what's going on,” Griffin said after working opposite veteran Nick Harper in the morning session.

“I'm just doing what they're telling me. I don't think it means anything. I guess since me being a rookie and the first-rounder, there's high expectations.”

That's an understatement.

The Titans used the 19th pick on the 6-foot, 202-pound Griffin, who played 50 games at safety at Texas. He had eight career interceptions, nine forced fumbles and seven fumbles recovered while starting 28 games.

The Titans immediately announced they would use Griffin at cornerback, the spot where they had lost Adam “Pacman” Jones for the 2007 season to a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Encouraged by ex-Longhorns teammate Vince Young to sign quickly, Griffin missed only two practices and was on the field before the end of the second day of camp – at cornerback.

It's been an adjustment.

“I think in my head, 'I'm a cornerback. I'm not a safety anymore,'” Griffin said. “So that's one of the things I have to get accustomed to. I'm just going out there playing. Really there's nothing I can say. It's the coaches' call, what the coaches believe I can do.”

He said he's honored the Titans coaches believe he can switch positions. Fighting such a move would cause distractions and hurt the team, he added.

Secondary coach Chuck Cecil, himself a former NFL safety, said Griffin has come a long way.

“Every practice, we see something new. He's kind of figuring things out. It's a different game out there, but he has done a good job. He's working hard at it,” Cecil said.

The competition has been stiff at cornerback for the Titans.

Incumbent starter Reynaldo Hill, a seventh-round pick in 2005, has been slowed by a groin injury that kept him out of the first two exhibitions. Cortland Finnegan, a seventh-round pick in 2006 out of Samford, started in Hill's place at right cornerback.

Kelly Herndon, picked up in June, and Eric King also have looked good. Harper, a free agent signee from Indianapolis in March, appears to be set as the starting left cornerback.

Griffin, whose locker is next to Harper's, said all the defensive backs have been helpful, including safeties Chris Hope and Lamont Thompson. He credited Finnegan for an assist during the New England game.

“I was able to break on one of those out routes he told me about,” said Griffin, who took a ball away from Patriots receiver Reche Caldwell and picked off a second later in the third quarter.

Decisions are looming. Training camp ends Wednesday, and the regular season starts Sept. 9 at Jacksonville.

The plan is to keep Griffin at cornerback, at least for now.

“He's made a lot of plays out there,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He's getting better. So I have not considered moving him to a different position at this point.”

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