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Vrabel giving assistant Williams chance as Titans' acting coach in preseason opener

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans are taking another step to help their minority assistant coaches land NFL head coaching jobs.

Mike Vrabel announced Monday that Terrell Williams, their assistant head coach and defensive line assistant who is Black, will be Tennessee's acting head coach Saturday during the Titans' preseason opener in Chicago.

“This is a great opportunity for him and for us and everybody involved, so Big T will handle that," Vrabel said.

Vrabel said he'll assist with Williams' assistant Clinton McMillan overseeing the defensive line. Vrabel said Williams also will handle postgame media duties before Vrabel takes over Sunday when he meets with reporters.

Williams, 49, has never been a head coach. He was promoted to assistant head coach early this offseason and is in his sixth season with the Titans and 26th as a coach overall. Williams has coached defensive lines in the NFL for the past 11 seasons for Tennessee, Miami and the Raiders.

He had summer internships in the NFL while still coaching in college starting with Jacksonville in 1999, Seattle in 2007 and Dallas in 2008. The native of Los Angeles played nose guard at East Carolina before going into coaching.

Vrabel said Williams will start working as the acting head coach Friday. Williams is scheduled to speak to reporters Thursday before practice. Vrabel said there will be lots of conversations up to Friday about handling the roster and talking with assistant coaches on the Titans' approach to the preseason opener.

“I’ll help him where need be,” Vrabel said. "But I do think it’ll be a great opportunity, well deserved. And so just something that I wanted to do.”

Vrabel will be involved and help players with technique questions and be available to Williams for any questions during the game. Vrabel said the plan is simple: "To help him understand that role and what’s what’s required” of a head coach during an NFL game.

The Titans have worked hard to give Black assistants and front office personnel opportunities for more exposure.

They sent Tony Dews, former running backs assistant now coaching tight ends this season, to the NFL's coaching accelerator program with Brian Gardner, director of pro scouting, going twice.

That's the same program where controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk met Ran Carthon last December, the man she hired as the franchise's first Black general manager in January. Carthon hired two assistant general managers, including Anthony Robinson who's also Black and started with Carthon in Atlanta.

Vrabel also hired the franchise's first full-time female assistant this offseason in Lori Locust, who won a Super Bowl ring with Tampa Bay and currently is a defensive quality control coach.

Williams helped the Titans post the NFL's stingiest rushing defense in 2022, giving up just 76.9 yards per game. That was the second-lowest number in franchise history, and defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons reached his second straight Pro Bowl with 7 1/2 sacks.

Williams started coaching at Fort Scott Community College in 1998 and also coached at North Carolina A&T, Youngstown State, Akron, Purdue and Texas A&M before moving to the NFL in 2012 with the Raiders.

This is the second preseason game where someone stepped in for Vrabel, also against Chicago.

Vrabel was unavailable after testing positive for COVID-19 in August 2021, so special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman handled communication with players. John Streicher, then the coordinator of football development, handled game decisions, playtime and talking with assistant coaches.