Titans' ‘other' George is ready

Safety Tony George has literally been working his way back to the NFL from sitting out last season after being cut by the Super Bowl champs New England Patriots. His former Florida teammates on the Titans think George is the real deal and looks like he'll earn himself a spot on the roster.

A couple of times during Monday's mini-camp drills, safety Tony George was in the right place at the right time.

The result was two interceptions, both on deflected passes, during the two-minute offense drills.

After being out of the league last year, George is now hoping he's landed at the right place at the right time by signing with the Titans.

Last season, he was definitely in the right place at the wrong time, being released by New England before the season began and just before the Patriots went on their unlikely ride to win Super Bowl XXXVI.

So what did George do last season as he waited for the chance that never came?

"Nothing. I spent a whole year working out. I had a personal trainer all year," George said. "I worked out for several teams. I guess at the time the teams that wanted me really weren't making a move at that time."

George, 26, was a third-round pick of the Patriots in the 1999 draft and spent most of his first two seasons there as a backup and on special teams. He said his release last August did not set him back.

"It didn't discourage me or anything. I just kept on working," George said. "I knew eventually my opportunity would come and I'd be ready when it came."

That opportunity came in February when Titans general manager Floyd Reese picked up the phone and asked George if he'd be interested in coming to Tennessee. With the team's safety situation in great need of repair after the Titans' 2001 crash, it seemed like a good fit to George, where at least he'd have a chance to compete for a roster spot.

"They were the first team to call and let me know that I was one of the guys that was high on their list and they wanted to sign me," George said. "I got a call from Floyd Reese and he said he was ready to have me here. I said, ‘I'm more than ready to come. I had a year of rest, so there ain't no excuses about me being tired.' I told him I'm just ready to be here and work."

For George, it will be work to separate himself from the logjam that currently exists at the safety position. Free-agent Lance Schulters was signed to bolster the unit at free safety. Second-round draft pick Tank Williams and incumbent Aric Morris are expected to be the front-runners for the strong safety position, where George has been getting most of his work.

He does bring some versatility in that he can play either safety position and could even fill in at cornerback in a pinch, as he spent part of his college career as a cornerback for the Florida Gators.

While George faces plenty of competition in the safety derby, he is glad that he again just has an opportunity, which is more than he had last season.

"There's no rust at all. I'm kind of eager to get out there and show what I can do," George said. "I felt like a year was stolen from me, and I want to compensate for that by going out and working real hard and trying to get back to that playing level and that ‘no-quit' aura that I carry with me."

George has some new teammates who know what he is capable of, namely some of his former University of Florida teammates.

"I'm happy to see Tony here, to be honest with you," tight end Erron Kinney said. "I think he deserves an opportunity, and I think he's going to get it here, because he's a player who plays with a whole lot of fire and a whole lot of heart. He's a great guy to have around. He's a special teams guru. He'll do whatever it takes to be successful."

Added fellow former Gator Jevon Kearse, who kept in touch with George throughout last season: "He's a hard-hitting safety. He kind of reminds me a lot of a Blaine Bishop-type of player, like a linebacker playing safety. He's been getting better and better each practice."

That has come as he has gotten more familiar with the Titans defensive scheme.

"It's like a rookie coming into the process. He's had to try and learn the system like all the rookies," Titans defensive backs coach Everett Withers said. "He's been here probably a little longer than some of the rookies. I think he's learning the system. The difference between Tony and some of the rookies is he's been in an NFL camp before. He understands NFL coverages and schemes, and that helps him. He's doing well."

In battling to make the Titans and re-establish a derailed NFL career, George knows he will have to continue to impress and become increasingly familiar with the defense.

It's a challenge George says he is ready to accept.

"I spent the whole year off just training, just physically training," he said. "Now I'm ready to go out here and start making plays for the Titans."

That has already started to show in George's work on the practice field.

"His effort is great. He's working hard and learning. He's working hard like he wants to make this football team," Withers said.

Thweatt excused

Titans reserve linebacker Byron Thweatt was excused from Monday's mini-camp workout because of a death in the family. It is not known whether Thweatt will return in time for today's practice.

Sidney eager

Cornerback Dainon Sidney said Monday he has been cleared to return from the knee injury he suffered in last year's season opener. The Titans, however, are playing it safe with Sidney, who will not partake in any contact drills until training camp begins in July.

"The knee is coming along fine. I'm clear. I'm ready to go now," Sidney said. "I think they just want to be cautious."

Adams in town

Titans owner Bud Adams will be in town today to present $70,000 worth of checks to area charities. The money was raised during the Titans annual celebrity golf tournament.

Adams is also in town to partake in the "Inside the Huddle" program tonight where fans paid for the opportunity to have dinner with the Titans players, coaches and front office and receive a tour of the stadium. The event is also a fund-raiser for the Titans Foundation.

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