Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray wants to coach the most intimidating defense in the league, and he doesn’t care if that causes his players to hear from the league office.
“The biggest thing I think in this league is you have to start putting fear in guys from throwing the ball in the middle of the field,” Gray said Wednesday, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean. “And if that means getting a letter from the Commissioner on Monday, that means getting a letter from the Commissioner.”
Gray is walking a fine line between urging his players to be aggressive and risking a letter from the Commissioner of his own. The NFL expects coaches to teach players to learn to hit within the rules, not to tell them they shouldn’t care if they get a FedEx envelope with a letter from the league office informing them they’ve been fined.
But Gray said he isn’t encouraging cheap shots, just physical play.
“A lot of times you have to be able to let these guys know: You are not going to be able to throw the ball in the middle of the football field,” Gray said. “This is not a basketball game; it is a football game. So the ball doesn’t go down the middle of our field. And that is what safeties should do in this league.”
With the Saints likely to throw plenty of passes over the middle to their lanky tight end Jimmy Graham on Sunday, Gray is telling his linebackers and safeties they should have a big target over the middle.
“Just do a clean hit, hit a guy clean,” Gray said. “And the good thing is, he is 6-foot-7, so you are not going to hit him in the head anyway.”
Gray hopes his comments will be heard in New Orleans. But those comments will also ensure that any hits delivered by the Titans on Sunday will get close scrutiny at the league office in New York as well.