Titans coordinator facing off against his old team in Ravens
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Dean Pees' retirement from his old job as defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens sure didn't last very long. Not with Mike Vrabel pouncing on the chance to lure his former coach to work with him in Tennessee.
Now the NFL schedule is giving the defensive coordinator a chance to try and slow down his old team on Sunday.
"At some point in time when I do conclude my career," Pees said, "it will be to me a unique situation and a unique opportunity I was given to work for two guys that are great coaches and were great players for me, and for me then to kind of give back and the fact that I kind of know them so well. We're on the same page as far as how you do things and that kind of stuff, it all kind of came from the same school."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who played for Pees at Miami (Ohio), hired his former defensive coordinator in 2010 as linebackers coach before turning over the defense to Pees in 2012 — a year Baltimore won the Super Bowl. Pees held that job through last season before retiring after 45 years as a coach.
Vrabel, who played for Pees in New England, called Harbaugh and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome for permission to talk to the retired Pees once hired as the Titans head coach.
Safety Eric Weddle said it was tough to see Pees join the Titans.
"We were all happy for him, because we know how much he loves coaching," Weddle said. "But he's with them now. We appreciate what he did here, but we're doing our thing now, and he's doing his."
The Ravens replaced Pees, 69, by promoting Don "Wink" Martindale. Vrabel hired Pees to replace Dick LeBeau in Tennessee.
"Replacing Dick LeBeau anywhere is not an easy thing to do, and I was very aware of that, but I felt like we needed a change," Vrabel said. "And Dean has been everything that I had hoped for."
Both the Ravens (3-2) and Titans (3-2) come into this game off disappointing road losses. Baltimore lost 12-9 in overtime in Cleveland, while the Titans fell 13-12 in Buffalo.
After kickoff, friendships are forgotten for at least three hours.
"Once the game starts, we'll be trying to choke each other out," Harbaugh joked.
Some things to know about the Ravens and Titans:
Without Pees, the Ravens remain just as stingy, leading the NFL in scoring defense and with 34 tackles for loss. The Ravens haven't allowed a touchdown in the second half of a game this season. Baltimore also is third in fewest yards allowed, four spots ahead of Pees' Titans, with Tennessee third against the pass, just ahead of Baltimore. Tennessee leads the NFL in red zone defense.
The Titans hope to get back veteran linebacker Wesley Woodyard after missing a game with an injured shoulder, while Harbaugh hopes to get back defensive tackle Michael Pierce after missing a game with an injured foot.
Drafted 32nd overall, rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson gives opposing defenses something else to think about when he lines up behind center. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner ranks fourth on the team with 72 yards rushing and leads Baltimore with an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Jackson ran three times for 10 yards last week and threw an incomplete pass. He's 1 for 5 through the air this season.
NEED MORE OFFENSE
The Titans are coming off their second game this season when they couldn't score a touchdown. Luckily, Marcus Mariota and his elbow is off the injury report for the first time since being hurt in the season opener. But the Titans could be missing left tackle Taylor Lewan, who hurt his right foot in Buffalo. Mariota said it's just a matter of execution and the Titans have to get better.
Terrell Suggs was used for 66 of the 71 total snaps last week against the Browns, no small workload for a 16-year veteran who turned 36 on Thursday. Suggs is Baltimore's career sacks leader with 129, including 3 1/2 this year. A rigorous training regimen has enabled him to maintain a degree of excellence, but Harbaugh acknowledged that 66 plays might be too much.
Odds are good that C.J. Mosley will get a chance to tackle his former Alabama teammate and current Titans running back Derrick Henry at least once, and the Ravens linebacker says he still owes Henry from last year. Henry converted a big third-down late in a Tennessee win with a big stiff arm, breaking loose from Mosley. "I have to make sure that this time I don't let him get a big play," Mosley said.
AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg contributed to this report.
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