NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As he stands shirtless at his locker, it's clearly evident that Tennessee Titans running back LenDale White will never be confused for former Titans back Eddie George, he of the chiseled body that made many a defender cringe upon contact.
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White's weight was a hot topic this offseason. There were reports he had become the round-mound of the ground, his weight ballooning as high as 275, jokingly putting him on the path to becoming a guard with good feet.
"Two-seventy five?" White said. "That's unbelievable. Some people need to make up stories. If I was 275, (coach) Jeff (Fisher) would have said something. I was 10 pounds overweight. My weight is supposed to be 240 and I got to 250. I got a little carried away with eating. Once I got back into the groove and was doing what I needed to be doing, the weight came off."
Even at 240, which he is now, White will never looked ripped. But for a man his size, he has some impressive feet. That's why the Titans think he can fill the role as the starting running back, a spot vacated by the loss of Travis Henry in free agency.
White isn't listed as the starter now. He didn't start the team's preseason opener here against the Washington Redskins, instead entering the game in the second quarter in place of Chris Brown. But the word is it's only a matter of time before he's the starter. It seems Fisher is a big believer in letting veteran open as the starters, with the backups going up and taking the jobs away.
Brown, who has been with the Titans the past four years and has 28 starts, was a late re-signing and he was almost on another roster. Brown is serviceable, but White can be special.
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GoBlue49 : "I have never seen a team hang a season on one player so much. I love Vince Young, but going on the Madden cover is never good."
He just needs to show it. He especially needs to show more dedication to the craft.
So can the Titans count on him?
A year ago, he was a second-round pick who many thought would push Henry for time. But he spit on a teammate during a camp practice, was suspended for a game, missed time with injuries and other ailments and finished with 244 yards rushing.
It wasn't as if the Titans weren't warned. The knock on White coming out of USC was work ethic. He played in the Rose Bowl after the 2005 season at 255 pounds. Why? He said it was because he went home and ate too much and worked too little during the holidays.
That's a red flag.
Yet, despite the weight, he still rushed for 124 yards and scored three touchdowns in the Trojans' 41-38 loss to the Texas, outshining Reggie Bush, his Heisman Trophy-winning teammate.
"The whole world was praising me at 255 at the Rose Bowl," White said. "I gain 10 pounds back this offseason and they're saying I'm fat and out of shape. It is what it is."
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What it is is a sign of a lack of commitment. White knew Henry was gone, and knew the job could be his, and yet White didn't put in the work in needed to stay in shape. When Henry bolted for Denver, Brown was believed to be gone and the Titans hadn't yet selected Chris Henry in the second round of the April draft, yet here's a guy with a chance to thumb his nose at it.
He was penciled in as the man before reports of his being more of a marshmallow man started to leak out. It didn't help that he missed a minicamp practice, which didn't exactly endear him to the coaches or his teammates.
"I'll be honest," White said. "I was a little immature, not knowing what goes on in the NFL, what it takes year round. I learned from my mistakes and it will never happen again."
In the preseason opener, White rushed for 12 yards on six carries. But it was a fourth-and-2 run that allowed him a chance to show off his nifty footwork. He took a handoff from Kerry Collins, bounced outside with a nice quick move and gained 8 yards for a first down.
What's even better is that he lowered his shoulder and made defenders pay for tackling him. It's those types of plays that will eventually get White in as the starter.
With Henry gone, and leading receiver Drew Bennett vacated via free agency, Titans quarterback Vince Young needs help. Brown would be OK as the starter, but White can be a 1,400-yard rusher who would help open up the passing game.
We know Fisher loves to run the football -- he pounded George to a Super Bowl -- so all indications are that White's the guy.
|QB Vince Young|
|Jamey Eisenberg's take: How good was Young last year? He started 13 games and passed for 2,199 yards, 12 TDs and 13 INTs. And he ran for 552 yards and seven touchdowns. Young scored a touchdown either passing or rushing in 13 of the 15 games he appeared in. He should be in line to improve on those stats this year, but the concern is the lack of weapons around him. Well, don't worry. Young will get enough out of wideouts Brandon Jones, Roydell Williams and Eric Moulds and tight ends Ben Troupe and Bo Scaife. He's a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback this season and worthy of being selected somewhere around the fifth round.|
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They're understandably making him earn it.
"I just go out and play football," White said. "Until they name me that guy, I'm going to go out there and believe I am that guy. I'm going to be playing like I'm that guy. I feel a lot more comfortable. Everything has slowed down for me."
He's in better shape, he's more confident and he seems more dedicated to the job at hand. So what if he's not Body-by-Eddie? All that matters is he can get through the hole, and White has that ability, a big man with special feet. Hey, Jerome Bettis never looked good without his uniform.
"It is what it is," White said of the fuss about his weight. "But 275? They would have moved me to fullback."
That would be a shame. He's too good a runner for anything like that to happen, and time will tell if he's matured enough to show it.