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Reggie Ragland partly blames himself for Titans loss

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Ragland says the Chiefs defense has returned with a new mindset and attitude.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs went into the locker room at halftime of January’s eventual playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans up 21-3, having allowed just 52 rushing yards to Derrick Henry.

Everyone knows how the story ends. In the second half, the Titans offense had their way with the Chiefs defense, and they rallied for an improbable 22-21 comeback. Henry finished with 156 yards on the ground.

Inside linebacker Reggie Ragland opened up about the loss and the lack of run defense after the Chiefs’ ninth OTAs practice Thursday.

“I feel like that was bad on my part because as a leader, I have to get everybody going, and we got to stop that run,” Ragland, who led the team with nine combined tackles in that losing effort, said. “At the end of the day, we have to want to. It ain’t nothing but heart when it comes to stopping that run. We didn’t have it at that time I feel like, but I think the guys have come in with a better mindset.”

In late March, amidst a wild 10 days of Chiefs moves, we noted how often Chiefs general manager Brett Veach used that word—mindset.

To alter the defensive “mindset,” Veach moved on from older players like Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson, signing younger players like 25-year-old Anthony Hitchens, who will play next to Ragland, and 26-year-old nose tackle Xavier Williams.

What has resulted, according to Ragland, is a team that is stronger and more capable of stopping the run.

“Everybody we have on this team is in their prime, pretty much, except maybe a couple guys,” he said. “Everybody’s ready to go, everybody’s thinking fast on their feet, so I feel like we’re in a good position to make something big for these next few years to come, and I feel like we can get started this year.”

Seeing that opportunity, Ragland said the most important thing for him to work on this year was his leadership skills. With Johnson off to the division-rival Oakland Raiders, it is now his job to make sure the defense is ready.

“It doesn’t matter how old you get—you can always work on being a leader,” Ragland added. “My mind, my body, just everything. I just wanted to come in and make sure I was prepared and ready for whatever Bob was going to throw at me and my job is to get this defense lined up and everything is going to take care of itself.”

Ragland, who attended Johnson’s wedding last week, explained that watching him last season helped him prepare for this new role.

And though he hopes to fill Johnson’s shoes, Ragland understands his place in history.

Johnson is the organization’s No. 1 career tackler, and his story is just beginning to be written.

“The only thing I can do is just take what he gave me and put it out there,” Ragland said. “For the most part, that’s DJ’s legacy. I have to create my own. I’m very thankful I came in and played with him for that year, but at the end of the day, I have to come in and do my job and try to do what he did.

“It’s going to be tough, but I’m a competitor. And I love to play this game, so I’m going to go out there and I feel like I can get the job done.”