NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Quarterback Blaine Gabbert quickly stopped the reporter asking him about learning his fourth offense in four years.
“Eighth in eight years,” he said.
The Tennessee Titans, who signed Gabbert in March to back up Marcus Mariota , are the fourth team that the quarterback has played for since being drafted by Jacksonville in 2011. But coach Mike Vrabel is his ninth different head coach and has the eighth different scheme that Gabbert has had to learn since he entered the NFL out of Missouri.
“There’s going to be bumps in the road,” Gabbert said. “We’re installing new plays every night, but at the same time it’s about mastering all the little things. Not getting ahead of yourself and kind of run the system.”
It’s a bit of a coincidence that Gabbert finds himself back in the AFC South where his professional career began. The Jaguars drafted him at No. 10 overall in 2011, two picks after Tennessee selected quarterback Jake Locker out of Washington. Locker retired from football when his rookie contract expired in March 2015, and Gabbert already was in San Francisco with his second team, preparing to work with his fifth different head coach.
“Football careers go many different ways,” Gabbert said. “That was eight years ago.”
In that span, Gabbert has played for Jack Del Rio, Mel Tucker, Mike Mularkey and Gus Bradley in Jacksonville before being traded to San Francisco, where he played for Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. Then he went to Arizona last season to play for Bruce Arians, starting five games and going 2-3, with one of those wins coming in December against Tennessee .
As Gabbert churned through different head coaches, the Titans had their own revolving door at quarterback: Locker, Matt Hasselbeck, Rusty Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Charlie Whitehurst, Zach Mettenberger, Alex Tanney and Mariota — Tennessee’s second quarterback drafted in the first round in a five-year span. Matt Cassel started a game in each of the past two seasons with Mariota out with injuries.
That led the Titans to release Cassel in March, looking to upgrade Mariota’s backup. They went from Cassel, who was 35 last season, to Gabbert, who turns 29 in October. Gabbert said he was persuaded to join the Titans after sitting down with Vrabel , general manager Jon Robinson, offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara.
“They’re great guys, and that was something I wanted to be a part of,” Gabbert said. “They’re a young, hungry group and then just being able to meet the guys in the locker room. We have one of the best, if not the best, locker room I’ve ever been around. The guys genuinely care about each other on and off the field.”
The Titans get a quarterback who is big. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Gabbert has had to be a quick learner in his career. He has started 45 of 48 games, throwing for 8,437 yards with 44 touchdowns and 43 interceptions. He also is more mobile than Cassel, having run 170 times for 631 yards with three TDs.
Gabbert was 9 of 15 for 76 yards in the Titans’ 31-17 loss to Green Bay in the preseason opener .
“Blaine’s a professional,” Vrabel said Sunday. “He’s got a good arm. I think he’s come in, and he’s been with a lot of quarterbacks, he’s been with a lot of teams, so I think he gives good perspective to the room, first and foremost. He started in this league, and he continues to develop, and I think like any other player out there, he’s got some good plays, and he’s got some plays that he’d like to have back.”
NOTES: Rookie LB Rashaan Evans worked out Sunday on a side field . The 22nd pick overall out of Alabama left practice with an undisclosed injury on the first day of pads on July 28 and had not practiced since.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker
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