NASHVILLE – Taylor Lewan isn’t the only voice of experience on the Tennessee Titans offensive line.
He just speaks at the highest volume. And more often than most.
“Yeah, I’m shy,” the three-time Pro Bowl left tackle said. “Loud and obnoxious.”
Now in his ninth NFL training camp, Lewan hasn’t improved much, if at all, since he was the 11th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He has a well-earned reputation as one of the most passionate and outspoken hitters in the game – or at any position – and still runs hot and cold based on a variety of factors from his performance to the officials’ calls (or non-calls ) for game status.
Whatever he feels at any moment is not a mystery. Anyone within earshot, even at this time of year, likely knows.
“I mean, I usually always listen to that,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “But I think he brings an energy that is critical in training camp and practice.”
What has changed, of course, is what he knows about the professional game and his team. Lewan has been with the Titans longer than any player on the roster except shortstop Brett Kern and is one of six who have been around for Vrabel’s entire tenure as coach.
This has given him permission to speak up when he feels there is something that needs to be said.
Although he also knows enough now to know that sometimes guys can get tired of hearing from him.
“You control the guys,” Lewan said. “And it’s easy to find out what guys need if you ask them what they need. It’s not like I’m out there guessing, ‘Well, it looks like Nick needs this and Dillon needs that and Ben needs this from me.’
I go and say, ‘Hey, do you like it when I do X, Y, and Z?’ Most of the time it is ‘yes’. Sometimes it’s, ‘Hey, I’m better this way,’ and I usually try to take care of those guys as best I can because at the end of the day we all have to work really well together.
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However, there is a player in the dressing room with a license to tell him to get down the pipe. A younger Lewan wasn’t as willing to listen to center Ben Jones as he is today, but six years and 83 starts (including playoffs) together have fostered an appreciation for each other that allows for a rare level of honesty.
“He sees what I put into things, how much it means to me to win and be a part of this unit,” Jones said. “And it took time. He’s a guy I trust.
“… We have been together. So I know when his highs and lows are. And when I need a little kick or when I need to say, ‘Hey, take it easy,’ he’s a guy I can push. He’s a guy — no matter how the game is going out there — I can look over there and tell him, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get that,’ or ‘Hey, we’ve got to keep this going.’ Whether I yell at him or praise him, he will take the same attitude as me.”
Jones’ words are impactful because he is much more reserved and thrives in the traditional anonymity that comes with the offensive line. The perspective is one that Lewan has admired.
In short: Jones is the Yin to Lewan’s Yang.
“The epitome of sustainability,” Lewan said. “The offensive lineman, that’s Ben. I’m a super high energy cat and Ben is the same every day. Ben and I, we’ve been together for seven years, and it’s special.”
Similarly, Vrabel knows exactly what he’ll get from Lewan, and that includes some uncertainty. The chatter is constant. The desire to have others benefit from his experience has become commonplace. The passion is relentless.
The head coach is fine with it all, as long as it’s implemented in a positive way, which hasn’t always been the case during Lewan’s career.
“Just looking for some consistency there,” Vrabel said. “We told him that’s great, just be the same guy every day. And it’s important — that kind of energy and attitude and leadership is critical — that it’s there every day.”
As constant as his voice, you might say.
“It’s a unique thing about being an offensive lineman and how I run my mouth a little bit and how I play,” Lewan said. “So it might be different for some people.”
Talking is nothing new to him. It is the impact of what he has to say that has changed over time.