By PHIL SWEETLAND
Former Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas passed away late Saturday night following a single-car accident in South Nashville.
CINCINNATI – NFL locker rooms are always quiet following a loss. Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium, the Tennessee Titans’ room was even more subdued than usual, as the players dealt not just with a 33-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but with the tragedy and shock the entire Nashville community was feeling following the death of Rob Bironas.
It would be tough to imagine a more brutal Sunday for these players.
Bironas, Tennessee’s kicker from 2005-13, was the second-leading scorer in Oilers/Titans franchise history (1,032 points), trailing only a fellow Auburn alum, Al Del Greco (1,060). In 2007, Bironas set an NFL record by making 8-of-8 field goals, including the game-winner as time expired in a thrilling 38-36 Titans’ victory at Houston.
He was released by the Titans last spring and had yet to latch on with another NFL team.
Bironas, who married Terry Bradshaw’s daughter, Rachel, in June, passed away Saturday night following a single-car accident on Battery Road in south Nashville, according to Metro Police.
He was 36.
Cool Springs resident Jackie Battle, the fullback and special teamer now in his seventh NFL season and second with the Titans, only played one season with Bironas but was already greatly impressed with him both as a player and as a man.
“Rob was really involved in the community,” Battle said. “I think everybody in the community respected him and just liked being around him. The biggest thing is, whenever they wanted him to show up and do something for the community, Rob Bironas was one of the first guys to show up and be able to support the program. “
When Battle arrived in Nashville before the 2013 season after five years in Kansas City and one in San Diego, one of the first Titans players to greet him was Bironas.
“Rob and Brett Kern – both the kickers – were the first ones to introduce themselves to me,” Battle said.
Safety George Wilson, the ninth-year pro in his second year with Tennessee, recollects: “Rob was funny, always joking. One thing you know was that come game time, when you needed a field goal, Rob came clutch every time. Again, it was nothing but good memories. All you do is remember the good things.”
Wilson added, “everybody knew Rob Bironas. Every time you looked he had something going on. He was always having footballs signed for different charity events. He was just a well-known guy across Nashville and in Kentucky also.
“As soon as I got here, he shared his story about how long it took him to get into the league. He had done great things, so it’s just a sad story to see what happened,” Wilson said.
Safety Michael Griffin was one of several Titans who spoke of Bironas’ tremendous contributions both as a player and as an ambassador in the community for the Titans and the entire National Football League.
Center Brian Schwenke, the second-year player from Cal, said, “it says something about it when I’d meet people throughout Nashville, normal people, and any time they knew I played for the Titans, I swear every single one of them asked, ‘how’s Rob doing?’ It seemed like everyone knew him. Everyone personally knew him.”
Just like with Battle and Wilson, Bironas was hugely welcoming to Schwenke, a rookie just entering the league in 2013.
“Rob would invite me over for poker, stuff like that,” Schwenke said, smiling. “He’s a great guy, he was so friendly to everyone. We sat next to each other on the plane after all the games. It’s like still surreal, you can’t believe that it happened. We saw him so recently.”