Bishop may have something to prove

Bishop now an Eagle (Strasinger)

Ex-Tennessee Titan Blaine Bishop will make his NFL debut in a new uniform Sunday as the veteran safety suits up for the Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener for both teams at The Coliseum. There's more to the story.

Photo courtesy of the Eagles
Former Titans safety Blaine Bishop makes his return to The Coliseum Sunday as a Philadelphia Eagle.


In the Philadelphia Eagles 2002 media guide, the following quote is attributed to safety Blaine Bishop in his bio: "What lights the fire under me is to prove people wrong."

For nine years, Bishop proved that point for the Tennessee Titans franchise as an undersized, hard-hitting safety who made four Pro Bowls in nine years. On Sunday, he gets his opportunity to prove it to them.

Bishop was the heart and soul of the Titans defense for his tenure with the team. Then came 2001, and Bishop's and the team's fall from grace. The Titans sank all the way to the bottom of the league in pass defense last year, and Bishop suffered a lingering foot injury that eventually not only landed him on injured reserve, but ultimately out the door as a salary cap cut in March. He landed with the Philadelphia Eagles where he starts afresh in, of all places, The Coliseum on Sunday.

"It's been exciting. I feel like a rookie again starting with a new team building up new friendships learning a whole new scheme," Bishop said. "It's kind of been challenging and that's been the fun part about it."

A part of Bishop certainly will be eager to prove the Titans wrong, but at least on the surface, the 10-year veteran is saying all the right things about his return to Nashville.

Bishop is downplaying his homecoming, calling it more of a "That was then; this is now" situation. "You see it on the schedule you can't help but want to play your old teammates, but you know it's no different than any other game," Bishop said. "That's how I'm looking at it.

"I've set that aside. That was part of my regime then. I'm going to start a whole new deal here. That's over with. That was great and fun, but now I've got to move on. I'm sure they've done the same thing."

The Titans have indeed moved on, as sweeping out Bishop was part of an off-season housecleaning that also claimed DeRon Jenkins, Perry Phenix, Michael Booker and Daryl Porter.

Replacing Bishop will no doubt be the hardest part of that, which the Titans will do with rookie Tank Williams (or holdover Aric Morris) in Bishop's old strong safety spot, and Lance Schulters imported from San Francisco to play free safety, while also assuming some of Bishop's old responsibilities.

"It's way too early to tell [if we've replaced Blaine knowledge-wise and emotionally]," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "We've got two good athletes in Aric and Tank, and Lance is doing a lot of the other things from the other position that Blaine did from the strong safety position. We'll be OK. You don't replace a guy whose been here nine years and been to Pro Bowls and been a leader and impact player overnight. We will in time. We have no choice."

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who had to make do with Bishop playing in only four games (plus one play vs. Pittsburgh) last year, has already turned his attention to his new crop of defenders.

"That's the way this league is now with free agency and the salary cap," Schwartz said. "Everybody makes the comparison to college football where you have to replace your players every four or five years. You don't see many players that hang around for 10 years. That's our job as coaches is to get new players indoctrinated and get them fully up to speed."

And while he says there was no change in his relationship with Bishop, Schwartz says his attention will be focused on his own guys and stopping the Eagles' offense.

"I'm worried about coaching Lance Schulters and Samari Rolle and the guys we have," Schwartz said. "The Philadelphia Eagle guys that I'm worried about are named Donovan McNabb, Duce Staley, Jon Runyan, Tre Thomas and Chad Lewis." Still, despite being on the other sideline for the first time, Bishop's influence will still be present in some of his former Titans teammates.

"I think with me there is [a part of Blaine instilled in me], because I learned from him that it takes emotions to play this game, and that you've got to prepare," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "He and Marcus [Robertson], I learned a lot from those two guys."

Emotion was and still is Bishop's trademark, something that was readily evident even in the way he practiced.

"At times, Blaine did walk around with a chip on his shoulder, but that was just how Blaine operates during the week," Morris said. "He meant business when he stepped on the field and always wanted to win the game."

Should Bishop's Eagles come into Tennessee and come away with a victory Sunday, will Bishop let loose his feelings then?

Not so, according to Bishop, who says that chapter of his career is already in the rearview mirror.

"Closure was when I got released. That was closure," Bishop said. "That's as plain as you can get. I wish it hadn't ended like that, being injured, but that's the breaks of the business. It's the nature of it. I lived with it and moved on really."

"I don't think he'll really say anything bad about the team," Rolle said. "He's too much of a professional to do anything like that. But he's going to be ready to play, and if they win, he might let loose."

Whatever the case, the Titans do expect Bishop to play with even more intensity than ever, if that's possible for a guy who showed nothing but reckless abandon for nine years.

"There's going to be some emotion in the game," said tight end Frank Wycheck, who recalled what it was like for him playing the Washington Redskins after they had released him in 1995. "Whenever I went up against the Redskins right after [my release] a couple of times, it enters into your mind that the team maybe wanted to go in a different direction and didn't think you were good enough for them.

"I'm sure those thoughts will run through his mind. He may not say it, but there's no doubt he's circled this game on his calendar."

After all, as Bishop's bio clearly states: "What lights the fire under me is to prove people wrong."

Injury update

Defensive tackle Henry Ford missed a second consecutive day of practice with his nagging ankle injury.

Ford was "day to day," according to Fisher. Veteran Robaire Smith and rookies Albert Haynesworth and James Atkins got extra reps in practice in Ford's stead.

Haynesworth limped off the field during one drill after being kicked in the right ankle he sprained during training camp, but returned to finish practice and appeared to be OK.

Other Titans on the injury report who made it through practice included linebacker Frank Chamberlin (neck), safety Rich Coady (ankle), defensive end Jevon Kearse (triceps tendon) and defensive tackle John Thornton (ankle).

Fisher said Kearse's triceps strain appears to be 100 percent healed.

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