NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As players stepped up to the podium one by one Saturday night, each person expressed the same thing – they didn’t prepare for this.

The Titans had two weeks to prepare for the game, yet no one planned for a loss.

Two days later on what has been dubbed “locker room clean-out day,” the long glances and perplexed looks were still painted across the faces of everyone who spoke.

Time heals all wounds, but two days didn’t make a dent in a cut this deep.

“You can feel the totality of the year,” said Byard. “Like, you know we had a good year, but it feels weird. Even in the locker room, saying goodbye to certain guys you know might not be coming back just it doesn’t necessarily feel real.”

Twelve wins and a second-straight AFC South title. Two examples of major accomplishments in the 2021 season, but two wins short of the ultimate goal.

“It just doesn’t feel like we’re out of the playoffs. We feel like we’re supposed to be preparing to play the Chiefs this week, but this is how the league goes.”

It’s a sometimes unforgiving league that can make you want to pull your hair out and point fingers all while bringing you closer together and igniting a passionate belief that few other things in life can.

It’s a game where nine sacks isn’t enough to win.

“We are a championship defense,” said Byard. “We have the pieces and we have to do everything possible to try to keep these guys back. I hope and pray we can get him (Harold Landry) back and keep that front four together because I mean, nine sacks in the playoffs. If we can keep those guys together, if we can get the band back together, I think we can do some really special things next year.”

This one-time-only squad faces the reality of a new-look 2022.

“It’s a tough day because I’m not going to play with this same team,” said AJ Brown, who enters the final year of his rookie contract. “I wish it was different, but it’s the nature of the business. I wish it was like college where you can keep guys around and build and grow together, but people go their separate ways and I know they’re just trying to do what’s best for their family, it’s just a part of the business, and that’s the part I just don’t like about it.”

There’s a lot to love and a lot to bemoan, but anything worth a darn tends to teeter on that line. For the Titans, they’re learning that with great expectations can come great disappointment. The latter is the overarching feeling right now.