NASHVILLE, Tennessee — To his teammates, Tennessee safety Michael Griffin is "Old Man Griff" or simply "Grandpa." The grizzled veteran even has a few gray hairs sprinkling the beard on his chin.
Heading into his ninth NFL season and 30 years old, Griffin not only is Tennessee's oldest player on defense but also the longest-tenured player on the roster. He's outlasted so many safeties that Da'Norris Searcy is the 10th Griffin counts lining up beside during his career.
"I think this is the first time I've been playing with a safety that was technically younger than me, so that makes me old," Griffin said referring to Searcy, a four-year veteran.
Griffin's experience also makes him an anchor of a unit featuring four new starters. The Titans also are asking him to be more vocal this season to make sure everyone is lined up correctly on the back end of the defense. A first-round pick out of Texas in 2007, Griffin also sets a high standard with his toughness having played 126 of a possible 128 games in his eight seasons.
Last Nov. 23, Griffin dislocated his left shoulder against Philadelphia, left the game briefly and then returned. He not only finished with 12 tackles, he also caught a punt. But Griffin didn't miss a start the rest of the season, even though he needed surgery to repair a torn labrum this offseason. The Titans needed the veteran in an ugly 2-14 season with 15 players placed on injured reserve.
"He got a lot of respect from the guys in the locker room for what he did last year, and you know this league is a lot about respect," coach Ken Whisenhunt said Tuesday. "So it gives him tremendous sway when he's pushing our guys when we go through a practice like today where it's hot, and they're banged up from a tough practice.
"His leadership, his athletic skill, they're all important things toward building that chemistry for us."
Outside linebacker Derrick Morgan has been teammates with Griffin the past five seasons, and he was close by the safety when Griffin separated his shoulder. Morgan said Griffin has his respect for more than his toughness.
"He brings an attitude," Morgan said. "Just having the experience that he has, he's definitely one of our leaders. You always hear Griff's voice out there, which is good most of the time, and he's one of the faces of our defense. So you have to have players like that on both sides."
A two-time Pro Bowler, Griffin currently is tied for ninth in franchise history with 24 interceptions and seventh for all-time tackles (811). The only year he didn't play all 16 games was in 2013 when he was inactive for the first time in his career at St. Louis and later was suspended against Indianapolis.
The Titans limited Griffin through the offseason to make sure he was fully healed after also having surgery on his left knee. Once training camp started, Griffin, who turns 31 in January, has not missed a practice even though he estimates he's maybe 90 percent healthy.
Griffin said no one with eight years playing in the NFL is ever really healthy, so he tries not to think about the pins helping hold his shoulder together and doesn't wear a sling for protection.
"This is something we love to do, enjoy and it's a blessing to be able to do every day," Griffin said. "Come out to work every day you got to count your blessings each and every day."
Notes: Rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota was 10 of 14 passing Tuesday and now has thrown 174 passes in 10 practices without being intercepted in training camp. ... LT Taylor Lewan (sore shoulder) and CB Jason McCourty (sore groin) watched practice again, while TE Delanie Walker (left thumb) missed his fourth practice.
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