“I’m just happy to be back playing ball.”
Those were the words of linebacker Brad Kassell Tuesday after he was one of five players added to the Tennessee Titans practice squad, but that quote really could apply to any and all of the five.
In addition to Kassell, an undrafted rookie from North Texas who was let go Saturday, the Titans brought back defensive lineman Kevin Aldridge and offensive guard Matt Martin, who were also released Saturday, and added wide receiver Kendall Newson of MTSU and former UCLA tight end Bryan Fletcher to fill the slots on the squad.
“We feel like we’ve got a good opportunity get practice done and at the same time develop some players,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
Kassell, who had impressed the Titans coaches in camp, had gotten some words of encouragement when he was released, but still he didn’t know for sure until the deal was done.
“They kind of told me the options. They kind of told me what was likely to happen,” said Kassell, who also had an inquiry from New England. “It wasn’t positive, because nothing is ever positive, but they gave me a good sign that I would be on the practice team.”
Likewise, the Titans saw something in Aldridge that prompted them to bring him back as well. Not only is the defensive end from Southern Methodist back, but he is learning a new position as well. The Titans envision the 6-1, 271-pound as a swingman able to play both end and tackle.
‘They’re going to try to play me at defensive tackle [as well],” Aldridge said. “They want me to put on about 10 pounds and try to play down inside. They say it’s a good position for me, and I’m going to try to work on it while I’m on the practice squad.”
Martin, from Kansas State, will be Mike Munchak’s offensive line project for the season, as the Titans will also try to add to the 272-pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame.
As for Newson, who played locally at MTSU, the former Blue Raider is glad to be back in familiar territory and to get an opportunity. A seventh-round pick by Jacksonville, Newson said those chances were limited in Jaguars camp this summer.
“I just think I didn’t get enough opportunities to get out there and show what I could do,” Newson said. “I only had three balls thrown to me the whole preseason.”
Newson worked out for Green Bay after being released by Jacksonville, but was surprised to hear from Tennessee.
“I went home for a couple of days, and then I started working out,” Newson said “Then, Green Bay called me, and I went up there for a workout. I did pretty well up there. I was expecting a call from someone, and Tennessee called me. I was shocked really.”
Fletcher, at 235-pounds, is somewhat lean as a tight end, but was a second-team All-Pac-10 choice as a senior at UCLA.
“Bryan has some ability. He can catch and run. We need some depth there to help get us through practice,” Fisher said of Fletcher, who was a sixth-round pick of the Chicago Bears.
Ackerman in, Smith out
The Titans made an adjustment to the 53-man roster as well Tuesday, picking up former New Orleans Saints guard Tom Ackerman, who was released by the Oakland Raiders this summer.
Ackerman, who spent six years in New Orleans before signing with Oakland, felt glad to be wanted by the Titans.
“The Titans showed a lot of interest in me right away,” Ackerman said. “My agent told me that, and the Raiders told me that when they released me that they had called. To me, if a team shows that much interest, that’s where you want to be, because they want you there.”
Ackerman got a chance to impress the Titans first-hand as he played about half the Raiders preseason game against Tennessee.
“My whole goal this preseason was to get on film, so I just played as hard as I could in all the preseason games. I thought I played pretty well when we were here in the preseason,” he said.
Ackerman will fill in as a backup at both center and guard, filling the role held by Jeff Smith.
“It’s obviously a difficult situation for Jeff,” Fisher said. “Jeff had a good camp and did a lot of good things, and just over a short period of time made a lot of friends here, including myself. He’s a good man.”
Defensive tackle Henry Ford was the only Titans player not on the practice field for Tuesday’s workout. Ford is still nursing an ankle problem, though Fisher is hopeful he will be able to practice some in preparation for Sunday’s opener with Philadelphia.
“Henry’s ankle is still sore. I’m hopeful that he will be [back at some point this week],” Fisher said.
• Number switch
As NFL rules require, wide receiver Darrell Hill switched his jersey number to a numeral in the 80s. Hill, a seventh-round pick from Northern Illinois, wore No. 19 all through mini-camps and training camp, but had to switch to No. 80, the only number available, after Chris Coleman was released.