NEW ORLEANS — The previous time Michael Oher played in New Orleans, he was a first-string tackle for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
He returns less than two years later on Friday night for a preseason game as a member of his new team, the Tennessee Titans, trying to prove he remains worthy of a starting job in the NFL.
After starting every game through his first five NFL seasons — all in Baltimore — Oher, signed a four-year, $20 million free agent deal with Tennessee that brought him back to his home state.
But the Titans also used their 11th overall draft choice on Taylor Lewan, an offensive tackle out of Michigan, raising the prospects for some competition for snaps on the right side of the line.
Oher has been dismissive of such speculation.
“I don’t know anything about any speculation or anything like that because I know what type of player I am,” Oher said.
“I’m kind of tired of being disrespected by a lot of people who don’t know anything about the work I put in and how hard I work, and the love and passion I have for this game. So I’m not worried about anything. I go out there every day and give it my all.”
Titans quarterback Jake Locker seems pleased with the protection he’s gotten from Oher so far in training camp and in last week’s preseason opener.
“He’s playing well,” Locker said. “He brought experience and talent. (I’m) excited about what he’s doing for us on the right side of the line.”
The Titans will also be pleased to have a chance to make some player evaluations in the ideal conditions of the Superdome after playing in a torrential downpour against Green Bay last week.
“Handling a dry ball, we should be able to see a lot more of what we can do offensively,” Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
The setting also offers a sort of homecoming for Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who started the past two seasons at LSU.