Veteran linebacker finding new motivation going into his 8th NFL season Print
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Sunday, 19 August 2007 11:17
NFL Headline News

 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Keith Bulluck's locker features his own personal collage: photos of Deuce McAllister, Peyton Manning, LaDanian Tomlinson and Michael Turner and Jaguars running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
``All my opponents from this year. Everybody I'll face - running backs, tight ends, significant others,'' the Tennessee Titans linebacker said.
``By any means, this is not disrespectful. Every time I come into work, it's extra focus for me. In year eight, you've got to do a little something different. Psychology major,'' the Syracuse graduate said.
In his first seven seasons, there's not much Bulluck hasn't done. He's been an All Pro and Pro Bowler. He stays busy helping foster children after being taken in himself at the age of 12. He also has taken part in the NFL's offseason program at Harvard Business School.
An avid movie buff, Bulluck has more than 700 DVDs, loves to travel and is a favorite of reporters looking for both a funny and intelligent take on any subject.
But Bulluck, who turned 30 in April, is antsy.
He hasn't been in the playoffs since January 2004 when the Titans lost to the New England Patriots, and he is anxious to return.
``There are still things I want to achieve. First and foremost is for this team to get a Super Bowl ring. I had an opportunity to play in the AFC championship game my first year as a starter. I really didn't know what was going on,'' Bulluck said.
``Now looking back, I know if I got the opportunity again, I would be a big service to a lot of guys on this team.''
Thanks to salary cap cuts and rebuilding through the draft, Bulluck now is the most experienced player on the Titans defense. Free agency signings have added help with safety Chris Hope from Pittsburgh last year and cornerback Nick Harper from Indianapolis this year.
But it was Bulluck who called a players' only meeting last October after the Titans lost their first four games, had a rookie quarterback in Vince Young and had lost defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a five-game suspension.
The Titans lost the next game 13-10 at Indianapolis, but they finished by winning eight of their final 11 for a surprising 8-8 finish.
This year, coach Jeff Fisher has noticed Bulluck taking a bigger role.
``I would say more of a leadership role, but more of a curious role to see how things are coming in the different spots and he has been an encouraging guy,'' Fisher said.
Bulluck freely admits he came into the NFL worried about himself and his play, making sure he earned his spot on the team. He quickly realized any honors earned in this small-market corner of the NFL would come only when the Titans are successful.
He was All Pro in 2003 with his first trip to the Pro Bowl in a 12-4 season, a second-team All Pro in 2002 when Tennessee was 11-5.
That is why Bulluck has been trying to communicate the attitude he thinks the rest of the defense needs for success in a league where he says nothing is given, only taken. He learned that lesson surviving a 1-4 start in 2002 and reaching the AFC championship only to be snubbed in Pro Bowl voting.
``I'm trying to instill in my teammates you've got to take that respect,'' Bulluck said.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Bulluck has led the franchise in tackles each of the past five seasons, something only Gregg Bingham (1974-1981) and Al Smith (1990-94) managed. He has started 81 straight games, longest streak on the team, and has played in 111 games in his career.
The part of his game where Fisher wants to see improvement is in scoring. Bulluck has 11 interceptions and 17 1/2 career sacks but only five touchdowns that count - unlike the handful he's scored in preseason games. So far through two exhibitions, Bulluck hasn't visited the end zone once and is glad.
``I feel like I waste them for the regular season,'' he said.
Now if only the eager veteran's approach and attitude can help a defense that ranked last in the NFL last season.
``I feel I'm a very, very proven player in this league. It's a matter of getting my team to be a proven team again,'' Bulluck said.
 

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