The Tennessee Titans have had trouble filling their stadium for years and have needed the help of visiting fans to sell as many seats as they have.
The sales office stays busy pitching ticket deals to a stadium built in the late 1990s. Not even the first three-year stretch of winning seasons since relocating to Tennessee — each at 9-7 with only one playoff victory during that span — has helped the franchise lure back enough of their own fans to fill every seat regularly.
So the Titans are getting more creative this preseason.
They’re holding a “kickoff party.” The Titans are holding a practice Saturday night at Nissan Stadium and inviting fans to come out for free. To sweeten the offer, the franchise has country singer Jake Owen performing a concert after their two-hour session before fireworks. The hope is that 30,000 fans show up as coach Mike Vrabel and the Titans mimic a game during practice with their preseason opener Thursday night in Philadelphia.
Vrabel wanted to do this before his debut season as head coach but talked himself out of it.
“It’s pretty much like a game-day roster,” Vrabel said Friday. “One team has eight linemen and the other team has eight, so it’s kind of how you operate in a game. Then there’s Jake Owen playing and there’s fireworks. I know that I’m excited for it. It’s going to be a heck of a night in our stadium and I’m hopeful that the fans come out and take advantage of it.”
The Titans drew more people in 2018 to the stadium with a capacity of 69,143. More than 69,000 came out for an overtime win over Philadelphia on Sept. 30 with eventual Super Bowl champion New England drawing a season-high 69,363 in a 34-10 win by the Titans. A trio of games in December couldn’t crack 61,000, though Indianapolis brought plenty of fans for the regular season finale as the Colts took a wild-card spot that went to the winner.
Vrabel named the four Titans honored for their offseason study and work as the team captains: quarterback Marcus Mariota, defensive lineman Matt Dickerson and running back David Fluellen. Defensive lineman DaQuan Jones replaced wide receiver Cam Batson at the fourth spot after the receiver was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, and Jones will be captains with Mariota for one team.
The captains drafted coaches and players taking turns and going by positions to ensure each side could field a team. As of Friday, the Titans hadn’t been told which team they’ll play for. By mixing up the rosters from the first, second and third units the Titans have been practicing with during training camp, Vrabel wants to see how they react in different combinations.
“We’re just looking to try to have some fun and get some guys that maybe aren’t next to each other working together and just breaking it up and putting coaches on opposite sides, Vrabel said.
That means a guard and tackle who haven’t worked together may find themselves on the punt team or quarterbacks like Mariota, Ryan Tannehill or Logan Woodside might work with different receivers.
“I think that those things can be beneficial to us, plus it gives us an opportunity to get in front of our fans in the stadium with a concert and fireworks and all those types of things, so we’re looking forward to it,” Vrabel said.
Safety Kevin Byard thinks the different teams will be fun, though he’s curious to see how Mariota drafted cornerbacks to make sure he has someone capable of playing the extra defensive back role in passing situations. Byard hopes to play with some of the younger Titans to make sure they have a veteran who can help communicate.
“If they know what they’re doing out there, it’s always good for them and it’s going to be a bonus,” Byard said.
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