Bullock letting actions speak
Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 7:45 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Keith Bulluck doesn’t shy away from bold predictions and isn’t afraid to say anything he wants.
The Titans linebacker forecast that Tennessee would be back in the playoffs after a down season in 2001 and helped back that up in 2002 with a run to the AFC championship game. He proclaimed himself Mr. Monday Night last year, then went out and picked off three passes against the New Orleans Saints on national TV.
As he preps for his ninth NFL season, Bulluck isn’t saying much with two seasons left on his current contract with Tennessee. He plans to let his play on the field do all his talking.
“This is a decisive year for me. I guess … I’m in a position I don’t know what the organization is going to do. I’ve got to go out there and do what I’ve always done, which I don’t think is a problem for me,” Bulluck said.
Bulluck calls himself a realist. He has started 97 consecutive regular season games, the longest active streak for the Titans. He’s led the team in tackles five of the past six years and ranks third on the franchise’s tackle list with 1,027 career stops and is coming off a season in which he had a career-high five interceptions.
He got started quickly this season, picking off a pass in Saturday night’s 34-13 exhibition win over St. Louis and running it back for a touchdown to start the scoring.
Bulluck turned 31 in April, and the 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker said he’s sure Eddie George, the team’s all-time leading rusher, and Steve McNair were among players who thought they would be able to retire with Tennessee too only to finish their careers elsewhere.
“I won’t allow myself to fall into a comfort zone and feel like that’s what it is, and that’s what it’s supposed to be. So as a player, the only thing I can control with that is how I play. I go out and put my best foot forward every Sunday as I have for the past eight years, and everything will take care of itself,” he said.
No threats to hold out, no calls to his agent to pump the Titans for information on their future plans.
“Right now, it’s August. It’s football season. I’m not concerned about anything like that,” Bulluck said. “All I’m concerned about is is the team getting as far as we can during the regular season and playing into the postseason. February, March is where that stuff takes place. Then there’s more to say. This whole year? There’s nothing even to talk about.”
That just might be Bulluck’s psychology degree from Syracuse paying off. He was the Titans’ first-round draft pick in 2000, right after their lone Super Bowl appearance, and he had to work special teams his first two seasons before pushing his way into the starting lineup. He’s been there ever since with 16 career interceptions, five touchdowns and 17 1/2 sacks.
The man who was 12 when taken in by a single mother for a three-week stay that turned into six years with her family also spends his time working with foster care groups in New York and Tennessee. He took time after practice Monday to give school supplies and new shoes to 50 children through his foundation and teamed with another charity to provide shoes to 900 other students at another location.
Playing in the small market town of Nashville hasn’t helped his national profile. He’s made only one Pro Bowl back in 2003.
Teammate David Thornton, who led the Titans in tackles last season, said there’s no question Bulluck is one of the better outside linebackers in the NFL.
“I’m thankful I’m able to come in and help complement him and learn from him. I think we complement each other well on the field. He’s definitely one of those guys who’s definitely been under the radar for a number of years,” Thornton said.
His linebackers coach, Dave McGinnis, said Bulluck has only missed one practice during his five years with the team, and the linebacker didn’t want to skip that session.
“He’s incredibly durable. Ability in this league is wonderful, but availability is everything …,” McGinnis said. “I’ve been around other players like that: very few and far between who take care of themselves, and it’s a gift too to be gifted with that type of a body that can go through the rigors of what they do for a living and still be available Sunday after Sunday.”