The Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Tennessee Titans connection runs three deep. While it isn’t necessarily unusual to have former teammates squaring off in an NFL game, this one is a bit unique due to the prominence off the three players involved.
Albert Haynesworth spent his first seven season in Tennessee before signing one of the most lucrative free agent deals in NFL history with the Washington Redskins in 2009. After two seasons and part of one in New England, Haynesworth joined the Buccaneers midway through this year.
Haynesworth said he has no-ill will against Tennessee but said his return to Tennessee isn’t a pleasure trip.
“I’m treating it like a business trip,” Haynesworth said. “After the game I might talk to some of the guys I know but other than that it's a business trip and also I get a chance to see my kids.”
Barrett Ruud played six seasons in Tampa before signing a one-year deal with the Titans this past offseason, a move that brought plenty of cheers and jeers. As the teams’ leading tackler his last four seasons in Tampa Bay, Ruud played in 95 games, recorded 776 tackles and six sacks. Tampa Bay management felt a more physical presence was needed and the Buccaneers selected Mason Foster in the third round of this year’s draft.
So far this season Foster is ahead of Ruud in every major defensive category. He's leading the Buccaneers in tackles with 73 and has added two sacks and with two forced fumbles. In comparison, Ruud is enters Sunday as the Titans' third-leading tackler with 68. He's recorded one sack, two tackles for loss and picked off one pass.
Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood will be getting a first opportunity to go up against Ruud in a game situation and he said he's looking forward to seeing his old friend.
“Yeah we watched film today and it was fun to watch Barrett on the other team,” Trueblood said. “We always got to block him in practice but never at game-tempo speed so it will be fun to go against him after playing with him here for five years. I feel like I know he pretty well.”
When asked if the he misses Ruud on Tampa’s defense, Trueblood was candid.
“I don’t think so, that’s maybe mean to say but we have good players here. I wish the best for him.”
While the fans seemed to be split 50-50 on Ruud staying or leaving, Tennessee coach Mike Munchak is happy to have the seven-year veteran.
“We needed some leadership on defense and with the free agency and we lost our middle linebacker to free agency after the lockout,” Munchak said. “He has been a really good fit for us. As you guys know he’s a smart player. [He] runs well [and] can scan the field every play.
"Unfortunately after we got out of training camp or toward the end when he got the shoulder injury, he has been playing week-to-week really with multiple injuries. It hasn’t held him back. He missed one game -- the Carolina game -- because of the injuries. [He] re-injured the groin a little bit last week, but that’s been the hard part [and] the frustrating part for him.
“Again [he is] a guy that has come in and really quarterbacked the defense real well,” Munchak continued. “We are playing a lot of young guys. The coach can only do so much. I think when you have special players [and] veteran type players like Barrett [and] like Hasselback that can help your team grow help the young guys [and] develop those guys.”
Running back LeGarrette Blount, the last Titan-Buccaneer connection, is one who may have the biggest impact on Sunday’s contest. Blount originally signed off as an undrafted free agent with Tennessee before the 2010 season but was nabbed by Tampa Bay after the Titans waived him and attempted to sneak him through to their practice squad.
Blount is happy with the outcome, regardless of how it happened.
“I am just happy that everything worked out the way it did,” Blount said. “Fortunately I came here and became the premier starting running back so everything worked out for the best.”
Former Tennessee tight end Frank Wychek, now part of the Titans radio network said earlier this week that letting Blount go was one of the biggest mistakes the orginzation has made. Blount appreciated Wychek’s compliment.
“That’s flattering because I know Frank Wycheck,” Blount said. “He is one of the better tight ends to ever play. I appreciate that and like I said the move probably didn’t work out so well for them. It worked out for the better for me [with] me getting into the situation that I am in right now so I am happy to be here. I am happy things worked out the way they did.”