New Tennessee Titans strength director Zac Woodfin is targeting injuries


Ask the new Tennessee Titans athletic director about limiting soft tissue injuries, and he talks about proper sleep habits.

Zac Woodfin emphasizes this to his players. He will also talk about hydration. That is also important.

And then there is the technology. So much technology. The guy who is supposed to discover bizarre “asymmetries”. For example, if a player puts more force on his left leg than his right leg while running, Woodfin wants to know about it. When he finds out, he wants to find out why.

“I firmly believe that there is something that can be done to alleviate soft tissue injuries,” he said. “There is a lot of research. There are many evidence-based protocols, but they are multifactorial. It’s not just the training.”

Woodfin, a member of Brian Callahan's first coaching staff, describes the Titans' new approach to strength and conditioning as a “perfect balance” between blue collar and cutting edge. He says his staff will “do everything we know scientifically and evidence-based to reduce injuries” and “we'll take it from there.”

Sounds good, right? Especially the most “innovative” part?

Yes, I can feel what you're thinking. I think so too.

To be fair, though, no one is saying the Titans didn't do these things under their previous coach, Mike Vrabel.

The truth is that no one could do it publicly knowledge exactly what the Titans' strength and conditioning team did under Vrabel. His strength coaches were rarely, if ever, available to speak to the media. Meanwhile, Vrabel bristled when the topic of injuries came up in connection with that staff's efforts.

And as you know, the topic has been discussed again and again in recent years. Too much.

Injuries do occur in football, but not as frequently as here. And the Titans never seemed able to adequately explain — let alone fix — why they always seemed to be at a competitive disadvantage in terms of available talent.

Why they would have all of these players on injured reserve. And all the players listed on injury reports. In most game weeks it would be significantly more than this week's opponent.

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For years, the Titans have been among the league's leaders when it comes to the number of players filling gaps on the roster. The trend lasted so long and was a major cause of Tennessee's Vrabel-era downturn that it could no longer be viewed as just bad luck.

Which of these could be more avoidable? With a different exercise structure? Or better nutrition? Or more technology? Or more sleep?

Under Callahan, the Titans want to find out.

Woodfin, a former college linebacker at UAB who briefly played in the NFL in the 2000s, came to Nashville after overseeing the USFL and UFL's training staff. He previously led staff in Missouri, Kansas and Southern Miss.

With the Titans, he leads a six-person strength and conditioning team that combines new hires Mark Lovat, Grant Thorne and John Shaw (speed training coach) with two assistants – Brian Bell and Haley Roberts – who were carried over from the previous team. Lauren Silvio is responsible for nutrition.

“I just love their plan. I love her energy,” Callahan told reporters last month. “There are old-school elements that have to be a part of it. You still have to do hard things. You have to lift hard. You have to condition. But then there's the scientific factor of making sure we're doing the right things when we do them, which are the pressures. There’s a lot more that can be done.”

The refreshing part isn't necessarily what Callahan or Woodfin said about the Titans' strength and conditioning plans.

It was refreshing to hear them discussed at all.

You can't solve a big problem without first acknowledging that it exists.

“A lot of our guys came up to me, went up to our assistants and just said, ‘Coach, thank you. Thank you for what you do. “I love what you do,” Woodfin said. “And an important reason is that we explain to them why. Everything we do has a purpose. . . .

“Our goal is to do everything we can to extend their careers and help them perform at their best. That’s what they want to do.”

Like I said: Sounds good, right?

Reach Tennessee sports columnist Gentry Estes at [email protected] and on the X Platform (formerly known as Twitter) @Gentry_Estes.