Learn new of­fence?

Ti­tans’ Gab­bert on eighth in eight years

The Western Star - - SPORTS - BY TERESA M. WALKER

Quar­ter­back Blaine Gab­bert quickly stopped the re­porter ask­ing him about learn­ing his fourth of­fence in four years.

“Eighth in eight years,” he said.

The Ten­nessee Ti­tans, who signed Gab­bert in March to back up Mar­cus Mar­i­ota, are the fourth team that the quar­ter­back has played for since be­ing drafted by Jacksonvil­le in 2011. But coach Mike Vra­bel is his ninth dif­fer­ent head coach and has the eighth dif­fer­ent scheme that Gab­bert has had to learn since he en­tered the NFL out of Mis­souri.

“There’s go­ing to be bumps in the road,” Gab­bert said. “We’re in­stalling new plays ev­ery night, but at the same time it’s about mas­ter­ing all the lit­tle things. Not get­ting ahead of your­self and kind of run the sys­tem.”

It’s a bit of a co­in­ci­dence that Gab­bert finds him­self back in the AFC South where his pro­fes­sional ca­reer be­gan. The Jaguars drafted him at No. 10 over­all in 2011, two picks af­ter Ten­nessee se­lected quar­ter­back Jake Locker out of Wash­ing­ton. Locker re­tired from foot­ball when his rookie con­tract ex­pired in March 2015, and Gab­bert al­ready was in San Fran­cisco with his se­cond team, pre­par­ing to work with his fifth dif­fer­ent head coach.

“Foot­ball ca­reers go many Ten­nessee Ti­tans’ Blaine Gab­bert throws dur­ing the first half of a pre­sea­son NFL game against the Green Bay Pack­ers in Green Bay, Wis., on Aug. 9.

dif­fer­ent ways,” Gab­bert said. “That was eight years ago.”

In that span, Gab­bert has played for Jack Del Rio, Mel Tucker, Mike Mu­larkey and Gus Bradley in Jacksonvil­le be­fore be­ing traded to San Fran­cisco, where he played for Jim Har­baugh, Jim Tom­sula and Chip Kelly. Then he went to Ari­zona last sea­son to play for Bruce Ari­ans, start­ing five games and go­ing 2-3, with one of those wins com­ing in De­cem­ber against Ten­nessee .

As Gab­bert churned through

dif­fer­ent head coaches, the Ti­tans had their own re­volv­ing door at quar­ter­back: Locker, Matt Has­sel­beck, Rusty Smith, Ryan Fitz­patrick, Char­lie White­hurst, Zach Met­ten­berger, Alex Tan­ney and Mar­i­ota — Ten­nessee’s se­cond quar­ter­back drafted in the first round in a five-year span. Matt Cas­sel started a game in each of the past two sea­sons with Mar­i­ota out with in­juries.

That led the Ti­tans to re­lease Cas­sel in March, look­ing to up­grade Mar­i­ota’s backup. They went from Cas­sel, who was 35 last sea­son, to Gab­bert, who turns 29 in Oc­to­ber. Gab­bert said he was per­suaded to join the Ti­tans af­ter sit­ting down with Vra­bel, gen­eral man­ager Jon Robin­son, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt LaFleur and quar­ter­backs coach Pat O’Hara.

“They’re great guys, and that was some­thing I wanted to be a part of,” Gab­bert said. “They’re a young, hun­gry group and then just be­ing able to meet the guys in the locker room. We have one of the best, if not the best, locker room I’ve ever been around. The guys gen­uinely care about each other on and off the field.”

The Ti­tans get a quar­ter­back who is big. The six-foot-four, 235-pound Gab­bert has had to be a quick learner in his ca­reer. He has started 45 of 48 games, throw­ing for 8,437 yards with 44 touch­downs and 43 in­ter­cep­tions. He also is more mo­bile than Cas­sel, hav­ing run 170 times for 631 yards with three TDs.

Gab­bert was 9 of 15 for 76 yards in the Ti­tans’ 31-17 loss to Green Bay in the pre­sea­son opener.

“Blaine’s a pro­fes­sional,” Vra­bel said Sunday. “He’s got a good arm. I think he’s come in, and he’s been with a lot of quar­ter­backs, he’s been with a lot of teams, so I think he gives good per­spec­tive to the room, first and fore­most. He started in this league, and he con­tin­ues to de­velop, and I think like any other player out there, he’s got some good plays, and he’s got some plays that he’d like to have back.”


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