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Ex-Titan Bennett still adjusting to Rams
by JESSICA HOPP • Staff Writer • August 6, 2008
Drew Bennett charged down the turf and ran a short slant to the sideline. Arms extended, he snagged a pass and artfully brought it toward his body.
Then it happened.
From behind the nearby fence a small collection of spectators let out the “Drewwwwwww” chant that so often echoed through LP Field back when he was a Titan. They tried to keep it on the quiet side, so as not to expose their enthusiasm for the opposition, but couldn’t override the instinct.
Bennett’s jersey may have had a different hue, but it was still the same old Drew.
Beginning his second season with the Rams after spending his first six with the Titans, Bennett drew plenty of attention Wednesday as the two teams practiced together at Baptist Sports Park.
“Drew was always a clean-cut, hard-playing guy that seemed to never give up,” Titans fan Roscoe Stephens said. “I was sorry to see him go, and I would like to see him succeed.”
So would fans in St. Louis, where Bennett was not immediately embraced.
Slowed by injury early last season, he struggled as a slot receiver. As the Rams went 3-13 he failed to produce the numbers expected of his $30 million, six-year contact. In 14 games he had 375 yards and three touchdowns.
This year he takes over the No. 2 receiver spot vacated by veteran Isaac Bruce. Expectations are escalated.
“The great thing about this game is here we are again in another season and I can start over again right now,” Bennett said.
Bennett is used to proving himself.
The quarterback-turned-receiver joined the Titans in 2001 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of UCLA. Despite long-shot odds he made the roster, quickly developed into a significant contributor and was the team’s leading receiver in ’05 and ’06. As an underdog, he won hearts and formed friendships with fans.
Returning to Tennessee brought back good memories, he said, but it also felt a little strange.
“It’s totally different,” Bennett said. “I have been on the other side of this practice for six years. … It is a different situation coming in on this side and seeing across the field all the guys you used to play with.”
Now he hopes to put pressure on those players — and others across the league — while dealing with his own.
“For me it has always been an issue of confidence,” Bennett said. “If I am not getting in the game and in a rhythm and feeling comfortable then I kind of keep building on mistakes I am making. Now that I am starting, once I am in that huddle every day and making plays consistently it makes it a lot easier.”
Bennett looked strong running slant patterns, a staple of his repertoire. Later in team drills, Titans safety Michael Griffin pushed Bennett out of bounds, preventing a touchdown reception.
“It was a little strange seeing 83 in a different color,” Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said. “Catching that little slant out of bounds, that’s just classic Drew.”
Bennett said he’s learning from fellow starter Torry Holt, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, and hopes to sustain what so far has been a strong training camp performance.
He also hopes to win some Titanesque support in the Gateway City.
“It’s a different part of my career and I am ready to take that on and build a new fan base and get people to like me for the same reasons they did here,” Bennett said. “So I am excited about it.”
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