The Tennessee Titans went through a much-needed overhaul at the tight end position this offseason. Anthony Firkser was allowed to depart in free agency and MyCole Pruitt remains available on the open market. Titans General Manager Jon Robinson guaranteed some continuity at the position by re-signing tight end Geoff Swaim to a one-year contract worth what’s essentially a fully guaranteed $3.5 million.
Having once played alongside the likes of Jonnu Smith, Firkser and Pruitt, Swaim is now the veteran in Tennessee’s tight end room. He’s joined by free-agent signing Austin Hooper, rookie draft pick Chigoziem Okonkwo, second-year undrafted free agent Briley Moore, and Tommy Hudson. Swaim is guaranteed to play a sizable role in Tennessee’s offense in 2022.
Swaim recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports Media regarding his role in Tennessee’s offense, being the longest-tenured player in the position room, his first impression of Okonkwo, working alongside offensive coordinator Todd Downing, and so much more.
JM: You re-signed with the Titans earlier this offseason. Was there ever a thought in your mind that maybe you’d have to test free agency?
GS: Not really, to be honest with you. I mean, you always know it’s a possibility when your contract expires but I had a pretty good idea through my conversations with general manager Jon Robinson that I was probably going to be back in Tennessee. We both expressed interest in me coming back. I knew it was probably something that we would be able to reach an agreement on. You still need to have a contingency plan though, because things change in the NFL. I’ve been around long enough to know that. I was prepared to reach free agency if it came down to that. I always felt like we were on the same page though. I was excited to be back.
JM: When you first arrived here in 2020, you were teammates with Anthony Firkser, Jonnu Smith and MyCole Pruitt. All three of those players have essentially moved on. How does it feel to be the veteran in the position room as the longest tenured TE?
GS: It’s an interesting position to be in, and not because I’ve been with the team longer than any other tight end currently on the roster. I still feel like I’m a young kid (laughs). I’m eight years in, but I feel like I’m in my second or third year because time truly does fly. Having conversations with our younger players is certainly an interesting experience for me. We drafted a guy this year [Chigoziem Okonkwo] so having spoken with him a little bit, I can’t help but feel like, damn dude, I’m kind of the old man in the room now (laughs).
It’s cool because I’m in that sweet spot where I still have the athleticism and the quick-twitch abilities to go out there and play at a high level. At the same time, I’ve accrued enough experience to become a more well-rounded player that understands the game a little better than I previously did.
I love talking to young players, man. If they’re willing to have a conversation and pick my brain, my limited knowledge of the game, because I’m always learning, I’m happy to talk about whatever. I was teammates with Jason Witten for my first three years in Dallas. He was so helpful and it was so nice to pick his brain. He was very open and willing to discuss whatever I wanted. It was a valuable experience that helped me so much.
Being the older guy in the room now, I like it (laughs). I can still play and hold my own, but I can also help a young guy out because I remember how much Witten helped me. I’m always ready to offer words of encouragement to one of my teammates.
JM: That’s hilarious. It’s like you’re reading my mind. My next question was about how when you were a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys back in 2015, you had a legend in Jason Witten to show you the ropes and teach you about being a pro. It’s funny to hear you bring that up before I prompted you to do so. More specifically, how are you passing that knowledge onto Okonkwo, and other young tight ends such as Tommy Hudson and Briley Moore?
GS: I’ve honestly always thought of myself as a guy that wanted to help younger guys. When I was younger, I always used to think to myself, how would I go about doing that? What would I say, what would I do? Now that I find myself in a position to actually do it, the No. 1 thing I have to do is show up and lead by example. I have to be that guy in practice. I have to be that guy in the weight room.
It’s not so much about what you say. It’s about what you do. Everybody has heard the expression that actions speak louder than words. People may not always listen to what you have to say, but they sure will pay attention to what you do and how you conduct yourself around the facility. People watch what you do. You don’t understand what that means until you get old enough to appreciate it. I think about that all the time now. My No. 1 job is to be the best version of myself so that I can lead by example. If somebody wants to ask me how to do something, I’m always open and willing to talk about it. The bigger thing is to show up and work so you can provide an example.
When I was in Dallas, Witten was always willing to talk. We had some really long conversations, but I learned the most by watching how he carried himself. And I was very aware that he was already an older player at the time. He had taken a lot of hits and his body was beat up over time, but I watched him practice and work and his habits never wavered no matter what. That was the best example for me.
JM: That’s a terrific answer. The tight end room is currently an ever-changing dynamic. Ideally, one tight end compliments the other. That’s how the position works. In your opinion, how is that dynamic beginning to form alongside new additions such as Austin Hooper and Chigoziem Okonkwo?
GS: Organized team activities (OTAs) are an interesting time because we don’t have any pads on and contact is forbidden. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad about that (laughs). I like not having to hit people in the offseason, but it means we don’t get to do much of that run game stuff that is the majority of my world and role. That’s what I do. We don’t get that until training camp. We’re just working on technique in OTAs. It’s the little nuanced things that aren’t pretty or fun to talk about.
When we get to camp here shortly, that’s when we’ll see how the dynamic really begins to form. OTAs are great because everybody feels good about themselves because nobody’s getting their ass kicked (laughs). When training camp comes around, that’s when we’ll see what’s up. As of right now, I’m focused on myself and making sure that I hold myself accountable. I’ll never show up to camp out of shape or anything like that. Focusing on all of those details helps me make sure they can count on me when the time comes.
Watching Chig Okonkwo for example, you can see the stuff that we’re able to measure in OTAs. He’s big, fast, strong and athletic. He has good change of direction. That’s all great, but the coolest thing about him is that he’s a dude that wants to learn. He’s willing to have conversations and talk football. He doesn’t want to sit there and rest on his athleticism. That’s a great quality for a young player to have. He really wants to learn. I’m excited to see what he can do, and I’m excited to learn more about how we can complement each other. Hopefully we bring out the best in one another.
In relation to Austin Hooper, I don’t think I have to say much about him (laughs). We’ve watched him play for a long time. He’s been so successful in this league. He’s a proven dude that can really get open and produce both as a pass-catcher and run blocker.
I’m excited to work with both Okonkwo and Hooper. It’s hard to tell how everything will unfold until we really get into the thick of training camp. We’ll see who’s going to be in what spot and at what position. All of that will play out throughout the summer.
JM: A lot of tight ends nowadays love to run routes and catch, but you’re a throwback that loves to block as well. You touched on that briefly. What do you enjoy about doing the dirty work that doesn’t always get the credit it deserves? You’ve carved out a long, successful career doing it.
GS: It’s funny you ask that. I had a conversation with a fellow tight end the other day. He’s a player I played alongside a few years ago. We were talking about blocking and we both agreed that the most important quality a blocker must possess is that you need to be willing. You just have to be willing to stick your face in there, quite literally. It’s about moving people from Point A to Point B. I’ve enjoyed doing that ever since I was a kid. When I was younger, like most football players did, I loved hitting (laughs). It was fun to me. As I’ve gotten older, maybe I don’t love the big collisions as much as I used to (laughs).
I do still love that competitive aspect that’s required when blocking though. It’s me versus another person. We both know what the objective is. The defender’s objective is to beat me, and my objective is to beat him. It’s a simple game or concept, isn’t it? It’s the game within the game. It’s a little microcosm that perfectly captures what football is all about. One guy versus another. I enjoy that challenge.
I also know it’s a viable role to play. There’s not a lot of us in the league. I like that you used the word “throwback.” There aren’t many of us left. That’s a value that I know I bring to the table.
JM: The Titans put A LOT on your plate in that area of the game. Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing trusts you to execute those assignments, as does position coach Luke Steckel. They’ve asked you to be that guy in a run-first offense that features Derrick Henry. How do you continue to embrace that?
GS: It’s pretty easy. I’m blocking for Derrick Henry (laughs). I am extremely motivated to not let Derrick down. If we’re running a double team, I’m motivated not to let my offensive tackle down. I don’t want to let my guys down, period. That’s what football is all about at the end of the day. It’s about upholding your end of the bargain. You never want to be the reason something goes wrong, why a play goes wrong. I don’t know how everyone else is motivated, but for me, that’s my motivation. I’ve seen Derrick run. I’ve seen him run for 2,000 yards and I was fortunate enough to play a small role in that success. I don’t want to let him down. I don’t want to let Ryan [Tannehill] or our offensive line down.
I’ve kind of been reinvigorated by playing in Tennessee. It’s an organization that was already having success before I came around. I kinda’ got thrown into the middle of a successful year and I was asked to uphold my end of the deal. That was extremely motivating for me in 2020. Going into last season and going into this season, I re-found that a little bit. I re-found being able to play for a team that has big goals. Being able to block for a running back like Henry will do that for you. He’s one of the best, period. That provides enough motivation for me.
JM: I’m really appreciating your honesty. We’ll find out more as we get into pads, but is there a young player on the team that really captured your attention throughout organized team activities? I’m looking for who Geoff Swaim backs as a potential breakout candidate.
GS: You’re not going to get that out of me (laughs). I have enough to worry about in relation to myself. Making sure I’m upholding my end of the bargain gives me enough to worry about. I don’t like playing a game that has me trying to figure out who’s who and who’s gonna’ do what. That part of it will sort itself out.
I look for guys who are hard workers and want to improve. You have to put in that time and effort. We have a lot of young players that are very motivated and diligent with great work ethics. We’re fortunate in that sense. We have an excellent group of guys that have the right attitude. That’s really our entire team. We are motivated to win games. That sounds obvious, but it’s an important quality in a locker room. I’m very fortunate to be here.
That’s my way of dodging that question (laughs).
JM: I appreciate the honesty (laughs). What would you describe as the Titans’ brand of offensive football?
GS: We play hard. We’re a team that’s going to focus on the details. That may sound like a simple answer, but a lot of football comes down to what team is willing to play harder for a longer period of time. I love that about our team and our locker room. I especially love that about my position group. We’re a group of guys that are willing to work. It may be a boring answer for some, but that’s the truth. Football is sometimes simpler than we think. It comes down to who wants to play. I’ll side with our guys.
JM: This conversation has been everything but boring. I’ve appreciated your time today, Geoff. In closing, what are your goals as we prepare to kick off training camp here shortly?
GS: For me, it’s the same as it is every year. I try to stay consistent with my preparation. I want to make sure that I’m approaching my off-time with the right perspective in mind. I’m taking good care of my body. I’m getting rid of the bumps and bruises from OTAs. I’m making sure that I’m strong and fast. Those two keys are important. During this portion of the offseason, everything is about the physical aspects. There’s not a lot of mental preparation going on right now. I’m physically getting myself ready. For me, that’s pretty simple. It’s about approaching training camp as healthy and physically game-shape ready as can be.
It’s always about the next step. You can sometimes get lost in the goals of, ‘we want to go here, we want to win a Super Bowl’ and what not. That’s everyone’s goal. That’s not unique to the Titans. In order to achieve that, you have to go through a bunch of small steps first. You have to attack every single day. I’m focused on my day-to-day right now. When training camp comes, I’ll tackle it. When the preseason and regular season comes, we’ll tackle that. My approach is simple and allows me to methodically go about my business.