He’s going into his 10th NFL training camp and insists he’s nowhere close to being done.
“By the grace of God, I’m still here and still grinding away,” Washington said. “But I never questioned what was going to be the next move for me in this league. As long as they give me that opportunity to be on that field, they’re going to have to put me out.”
Washington is a long way from 2005 when he was a rookie in camp with Pittsburgh just praying that he would make a roster. Now he has two Super Bowl rings from four seasons with the Steelers and preparing for his sixth with the Titans in what he calls a long journey. It’s the final year on his current contract, though Washington says the future can wait.
“I’m not too much worried about what next year’s going to bring because this year means so much more to me,” Washington said. “I have a lot of friends in this locker room and I have a lot of friends in this city. We owe a lot to this community. I’m just excited about the opportunity to go out and give everything I can. Whatever happens after the season, it’ll handle itself.”
Washington, who turns 31 on Aug. 28, ranks only behind Wes Welker and Antonio Gates for career yards receiving among active NFL players who came into the league undrafted. He has played every game the past eight seasons, and his streak of 128 consecutive games played leads all receivers in the league.
The Titans have worked to boost their receiving corps the past two years. They drafted Kendall Wright in the first round in 2012 and traded up in 2013 to take Justin Hunter early in the second round. Hunter credits Washington with helping him and the other receivers with all his experience in different offenses and thinks the veteran shows no signs of slowing down yet.
“He’s got some more years in him,” Hunter said.
Washington had his career-year in 2011 with a team-best 74 catches and 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns. He led the team in receiving in 2012 and had the second best season of his career in 2013 with 919 yards receiving second only to Wright. For his career, Washington has 371 catches for 5,649 yards and 38 touchdowns.
With Tennessee hiring Ken Whisenhunt as head coach in January, Washington has been reunited with a man who was his offensive coordinator when the 2005 Steelers won the Super Bowl in his rookie season. Whisenhunt, who only spent two seasons with Washington in Pittsburgh, is very pleased with Washington since arriving and is happy the receiver is on the roster.
“The most important thing is expectations,” Whisenhunt said. “He knows what the expectations are. He knows how we’re going to go about operating, and I think he can be a good, for lack of a better word, ambassador for that. There’s always questions with a new team, what are we doing, what’s this going to be like, and Nate has an idea about that.”
The Titans had their first practice in pads Monday, and Whisenhunt said that Washington “brought the old guy out the archives, and he looked OK.”
Washington is excited about having Whisenhunt back for a couple reasons. He expects the Titans to be much more explosive offensively, giving him and other receivers more catches. Washington also hasn’t been to the playoffs since leaving Pittsburgh and believes his old coach can get him back there.
“Everybody’s expectations in the locker room has went even higher due to the fact that we know the success that he’s had in his career,” Washington said.
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