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Another Victory Without Vaccaro

Preparation is everything in the National Football league. It’s what players and coaches do all week leading up to a game. In addition to organized preparation, teams also have to be ready for unexpected circumstances.

And the Tennessee Titans have faced plenty of such situations this season, especially recently.

Safety Kenny Vaccaro has been a late addition to the injured list twice in the last four weeks. He missed the Titans’ Week 11 contest against the Baltimore Ravens with a concussion, and he missed Sunday’s matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars with an illness.

In both instances, second-year safety Amani Hooker started in place of Vaccaro on short notice. And in both instances, the Titans won.

“That’s part of the job,” head coach Mike Vrabel said on Monday. “We have to make a roster designation an hour and a half before the game as to who is going to be active and who is not going to be. I think it’s always a good reminder when these things come up … everybody should be prepared to play in the football game up until that time. Guys were ready to go.

“... Kenny, hopefully we get him back this week. We will see where he is when we get back to practice.”

Hooker has indeed been ready to go in both of his starts this season.

In Sunday’s 31-10 victory over the Jaguars, Hookier played 100 percent of defensive snaps. He tied a single-game high with seven tackles and one tackle for a loss. In the first quarter, he extended a Titans’ drive when he rushed for four yards on a fake punt, moving the chains. It was the Titans second successful fake punt of the season.

In the overtime victory over the Ravens last month, Hooker made several crucial plays, including an interception in the third quarter, which led to the offense cashing in for a field goal on the ensuing possession. He also had two passes defended and made six tackles.

“I mean, regardless, it’s my job to prepare to play and go into a lot of positions if my name is called,” he said. “I know a lot of guys, a lot of people, if their name is called, then they do the exact same thing.”

Hooker’s play this season in 12 games has impressed the coaching staff. He and Malcolm Butler are tied for the team lead in interceptions with three. Additionally, Hooker has registered a career-high 39 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss of yards and seven passes defensed.

A fourth-round selection in 2019, Hooker was credited with 13 tackles as a rookie but did not have an interception or a pass defended.

With three regular season games remaining, it’s fair to say that Hookier has taken a big step in his second season. He has his mentality to thank.

“I just try to prepare as if I’m going to be starting at safety,” Hooker said. “That way I can help out (Kevin Byard) and (Vaccaro), (that) if they don’t see something, I can help them out on the sidelines. I just try to do my best to stay up to speed, try to stay neck-and-neck with Kenny and KB during the week about first- and second-down stuff, and not just the third-down stuff.”

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