On opening night of the 2010 season, Dexter McCluster made his NFL debut at Arrowhead Stadium by returning a punt a franchise-record 94 yards, sparking the Chiefs’ to a victory over the San Diego Chargers.
On Sunday afternoon, McCluster will make his Tennessee Titans debut against the Chiefs in the stadium he called home for four years.
“I know the atmosphere, I know Arrowhead is always rocking,” McCluster said. “It’s going to be different sitting on the other side. I don’t even think I ever saw the other locker room in my career there. But it’s going to be fun. Just to see those guys again, to see some of the fans again, just to go out there and compete with those guys again.”
McCluster, who signed with the Titans as an unrestricted free agent during the 2014 offseason, is one of a slew of former Chiefs with Tennessee, the most recent being kicker Ryan Succop. Succop signed with the Titans on Monday after he was released by the Chiefs in last weekend’s roster reduction to 53 players.
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In addition, Titans running back Jackie Battle, safety Bernard Pollard and defensive end Ropati Pitoitua are all former Chiefs. McCluster will wear his familiar No. 22 after making a deal with Battle, who now wears No. 44.
McCluster, the Chiefs’ career punt-return leader with a 12.14-yard average, occupies a similar role with the Titans, lining up as a running back, wide receiver and as a kick returner.
“The opportunities are definitely there,” said McCluster, who returned two punts for touchdowns last season and caught a career-best 53 passes for 511 yards and two scores. “I’m not limited. They did the same thing in Kansas City. They did not limit me. That’s what makes me special. I can be that dual-threat.
“The special-teams category really helped me to get to where I am now. Last year was by far my best career everything, whether it was receiving or punt returning. At the end of the day, offense is going to fight, defense is going to fight, and special teams has chances to break open games and build momentum. That’s what we did last year, and that helped me out a lot to get recognized around the league.”
Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt sees plenty of opportunities for the 5-foot-8, 170-pound McCluster.
“I saw a guy who is versatile,” Whisenhunt said. “You can use him in a number of different roles. Hopefully you can create matchups with which I think they did a good job in Kansas City at that. All the things he’s already familiar with doing is the way we’re going to try and use him.”
McCluster, a second-round draft pick by the Chiefs in 2010, was not disappointed the club didn’t make a bigger attempt to retain him.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said McCluster, who signed a three-year deal with Tennessee worth up to $12 million, with $4.5 million guaranteed. “We did everything we could do to keep it where I could stay, but I ended up with a great organization. I built some great relationships there, and the one thing I can thank them for is being honest. They didn’t blow smoke up my tail. They told me, they’d love to keep me, but they couldn’t.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity they gave me. That’s all I knew. They drafted me, they gave me the opportunity. In this league, you have to respond when change comes. That’s the business side. You have to go out there and show your worth, and hopefully someone saw it. I loved it there. I still have love for that city, but his is a new chapter in my career.”