They know him well

Ti­tans DC Pees will face old team as Ravens visit

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - BY TERESA M. WALKER

NASHVILLE — Dean Pees’ re­tire­ment sure didn’t last very long. Not with Mike Vra­bel pounc­ing on the chance to lure the former Bal­ti­more Ravens de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor — and one of Vra­bel’s former coaches when he was an NFL linebacker — to work with him in his first year as coach of the Ten­nessee Ti­tans.

Now the sched­ule is giv­ing the 69-year-old de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor a chance to try to slow down his old team. The Ti­tans (3-2) host the Ravens (3-2) to­day with both teams try­ing to bounce back from close losses in low-scor­ing games.

“At some point in time when I do con­clude my ca­reer,” Pees said, “it will be to me a unique sit­u­a­tion and a unique op­por­tu­nity I was given to work for two guys that are great coaches and were great play­ers for me, and for me then to kind of give back and the fact that I kind of know them so well. We’re on the same page as far as how you do things and that kind of stuff; it all kind of came from the same school.”

Ravens coach John Har­baugh, who played for Pees at Mi­ami (Ohio), hired Pees to coach lineback­ers in 2010 be­fore mak­ing him de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor be­fore the 2012 sea­son, which wrapped up with Bal­ti­more win­ning the Su­per Bowl. Pees held that job through last sea­son be­fore re­tir­ing af­ter 45 years as a coach.

Vra­bel’s 14 sea­sons as an NFL player in­cluded eight sea­sons with the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots (200108), with Pees work­ing first as their lineback­ers coach in 2004 and ’05 and then their de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor through 2009. Af­ter Vra­bel was hired by the Ti­tans in Jan­uary, he called Har­baugh and Ravens gen­eral man­ager Ozzie New­some for per­mis­sion to talk to the re­tired Pees.

Ravens safety Eric Wed­dle said it was tough to see Pees join the Ti­tans.

“We were all happy for him, be­cause we know how much he loves coach­ing,” Wed­dle said. “But he’s with them now. We ap­pre­ci­ate what he did here, but we’re do­ing our thing now, and he’s do­ing his.”

Af­ter kick­off, friend­ships are for­got­ten for at least three hours.

“Once the game starts, we’ll be try­ing to choke each other out,” Har­baugh joked.

The Ravens re­placed Pees by pro­mot­ing Don “Wink” Martin­dale, 55. Vra­bel hired Pees to re­place Dick LeBeau, 81, in Ten­nessee.

“Re­plac­ing Dick LeBeau any­where is not an easy thing to do, and I was very aware of that, but I felt like we needed a change,” Vra­bel said. “And Dean has been ev­ery­thing that I had hoped for.”

Both teams have en­joyed suc­cess early this sea­son, but nei­ther is happy with last week’s re­sults. The Ravens lost 12-9 in over­time in Cleve­land, while the Ti­tans fell 13-12 in Buf­falo.

With­out Pees, the Ravens have been just as st­ingy, lead­ing the NFL in scor­ing de­fense (15.4 points per game) and tack­les for loss (34). They haven’t al­lowed a touch­down in the sec­ond half of a game this sea­son, and they rank third in yards al­lowed per game (303.8).

That’s four spots ahead of the Ti­tans, who are third against the pass (210 yards per game), just ahead of Bal­ti­more (215.4). Ten­nessee’s red-zone de­fense is the league’s best.

Last week’s loss to the Bills was the Ti­tans’ sec­ond this sea­son in which they failed to score a touch­down. In their fa­vor, start­ing quar­ter­back Mar­cus Mar­i­ota is off the in­jury re­port for the first time since hurt­ing the el­bow on his throw­ing arm in the sea­son opener.

AP FILE PHOTO/PHE­LAN M. EBENHACK

Ten­nessee Ti­tans coach Mike Vra­bel, right, talks with de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dean Pees be­fore a game against the Jack­sonville Jaguars on Sept. 23 in Jack­sonville, Fla. Pees faces his former team to­day as the Ravens visit the Ti­tans.

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