Titans Feel Good When They Look Good

The Associated Press
Friday, December 29, 2006; 10:10 AM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Linebacker David Thornton prefers the light blue jersey and pants because they remind him of his alma mater, the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Tennessee teammate Benji Olson likes the slimming effect of dark navy on his waistline _ he's an offensive lineman.

The Tennessee Titans may lead the NFL in one unofficial category this season _ uniform changes. They believe looking good helps them play well, and they have experimented with seven combinations of jersey and pants, searching for just the right ensemble for game day.

"You play how you look and how you feel, so when we're looking good, ... guys are bouncing around a little bit more, ready to play" receiver Bobby Wade said.

It's hard to argue with the results. After an 0-5 start, the Titans won their first game of the season Oct. 15 at Washington when they first wore the navy jersey and pants. From there, the team won seven of it's next nine games and takes a six-game winning streak and a chance at the playoffs into its regular-season finale against the visiting New England Patriots.

"It's important to present yourself in a way that somewhat helps you play with some confidence," Thornton said.

Safety Chris Hope said defensive backs particularly hate the league's strict dress code governing details such as how to wear their socks and what type of wrist bands are acceptable. It takes a player out of his comfort zone, Hope said.

"It's all about the style and that swagger that you have. Everybody likes to look good, and the football uniform doesn't change that," Hope said.

The NFL's only uniform requirement involves jerseys _ home, road and a throwback or alternate. The home team has first choice over what color jersey to wear, which is why Washington often wears white at home and the Jaguars have donned all black in Jacksonville this season.

The Titans have an alternate jersey that is a light blue, a shade or so darker than the Columbia blue of the old Houston Oilers, with navy blue across the shoulders.

But there's no standard for pants, and that's where the Titans have mixed and matched.

They wore the navy blue jersey with white pants against the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys at home, then used the white road jersey with navy pants at Indianapolis.

Coach Jeff Fisher, a former player, didn't mind when some of his Titans asked about switching up the uniform. He even let them have a football fashion show to figure out combinations. No walking the catwalk, just holding up different jerseys with pants.

"They have fun doing it. The thing about it, the decisions are just about unanimous," Fisher said. "They're not 50-50 with half the team wants this, the other half wants that. They like the change. We're just excited that we've been given the opportunity to have different options."

Thirteen-year veteran Kevin Mawae has never seen so many color combinations, but he likes what he sees.

"If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. I firmly believe in that, and I always have," he said. "Anytime you put on new duds, you look good, and you go out and play good."

Against Houston, the Titans paired the alternate jersey with the navy pants. The Tar Heels' look first appeared on Dec. 3 against Indianapolis, and the Titans' winning streak started Nov. 19 at Philadelphia when they wore the white jersey with light blue pants.

The only look that received negative reviews? The white jersey-white pants combo, and that's likely superstition because it's what the Titans wore in a 37-7 loss at Jacksonville on Nov. 12.

"We probably won't wear that again," Wade said. "If we do, it could have a reverse effect. If we do, I think guys will be more geared to keep that uniform in the ensemble."

Pairing darker colored jerseys and pants has been a big hit with the Titans, especially the hefty offensive linemen.

"We prefer all solid colors, no matter what, so there's no waist lines," Olson said. "It gives it that streamline effect. I would say dark-on-dark is probably one of our favorites."

Reebok still has the Titans in the lower third of the NFL for merchandise sales. But rookie Vince Young's No. 10 has been among the top 10 in the league and top three among rookies, and his sales have jumped 38 percent since the beginning of November.

Olson thinks the Titans will test even more looks.

"We've been successful doing that. I'm sure we'll keep mixing and matching and trying to figure out what that best combination is," he said.

© 2006 The Associated Press