Keith Bulluck has never been one who minded poking at the proverbial hornet's nest when asked for his opinion on things.
So it's not surprising, given that his tenure in Tennessee ended badly, that he would air his gripes about the Titans' handling of him when given the opportunity.
That said, what Bulluck said is the latest installation in what has become a disturbing trend with players leaving the Titans. There is very little, and to hear Bulluck tell it, no communication between the Titans and veterans who hit the free agent market.
Bulluck isn't alone in that assessment of Jeff Fisher, Mike Reinfeldt and the Titans front office. Already this off-season, veterans Kevin Mawae and Kyle Vanden Bosch told of the Titans having very little communication with them as they headed to free agency.
Bulluck was very clear to make the connection between the stories all three told as they exited the Titans.
“I haven't spoken to Kyle Vanden Bosch or Kevin Mawae since last year, and do you find it odd that we're saying the same thing?” Bulluck said.
Mawae indicated in a report that Fisher promised he would have a roster spot in Tennessee as a backup if he couldn't find a suitable starting role elsewhere. When he found no takers elsewhere, he soon found out he had no place with the Titans either.
Vanden Bosch's agent, Tony Agnone, tried many times to open talks with the Titans, and phone calls were either unreturned or met with a “wait-and-see” from the Tennessee front office.
Agnone finally did hear from Reinfeldt just before the opening of free agency, but that conversation was simply to say that the Titans “liked Kyle very much.” Nothing beyond that was ever forthcoming from the Titans, and Vanden Bosch wound up being lured to Detroit by Jim Schwartz.
What all three players have been upset about is simply the lack of communication from the Titans. In hindsight, it is clear now that the Titans were, as they love to phrase it when things don't go well, “moving on” from all three. And in that regard, the silence from Reinfeldt spoke volumes. In other words, no news is bad news for free agents on the verge of leaving Baptist Sports Park.
Quite frankly, that has been the m.o. of the Titans front office for awhile. The players the Titans want to keep as part of the core are identified early on and locked up with long-term extensions before the player ever sees the open market. It happened with Cortland Finnegan, David Stewart and Michael Roos within a matter of weeks last year. The Titans moved quickly to close deals with Tony Brown and Eugene Amano this past off-season.
The players the Titans believe might not be in their plans any longer, well, if the phone isn't ringing, it sure isn't Reinfeldt calling. Are you listening to that Bo Scaife? Stephen Tulloch?
That strategy is nothing new. It was in play, albeit in a more friendly way, when Floyd Reese was general manager. When a player the Titans didn't really have serious interest in retaining came to the end end of his contract, Reese would simply tell the player and his agent to go test the market, and if you don't find what you're looking for, come back to us. That generally meant a minimum deal might be available from the Titans.
Reese wasn't perfect, and his way of doing business cost the Titans a few times. The horrible public relations from the Randall Godfrey release, and later Justin Hartwig rebuffing a Titans' matching offer that came too late for the center's liking, quickly come to mind. The ugly divorces between the Titans and stars Steve McNair and Eddie George were particularly painful as well.
But at least the lines of communication were mostly open.
Here's a thought. It's never an easy thing to part ways with a player who has given his all to the organization, even if that player has been compensated with millions of dollars.
But next time, you're in this situation of having to say goodbye and good luck, how about a simple phone call just to say, “Thanks for all you've done. We wish you well, but we have to move in a different direction.”
Just a little proactive move like that might stop might prevent an outburst the next time a player leaves town.
With their failure to do so, then they have no one to blame but themselves when disgruntled former players speak their minds.