"I meant no disrespect to Malik or anything like that," Tannehill said on Tuesday. "We've been in constant communication since he was drafted. I'm disappointed in how things got spun and twisted a little bit. I pride myself on being a great teammate my whole career going back to when I was a kid playing youth sports."
When asked about mentoring Willis earlier this month, Tannehill said he understood the dynamics of a competitive quarterback room, but it isn't his job to mentor the rookie quarterback. Titans coach Mike Vrabel added that Tannehill's "job is to make sure the team is prepared to win games."
Tannehill said Tuesday he reached out to Willis as soon as his comments made headlines. Tannehill made it clear that he and Willis will compete, but he emphasized that he is willing to help Willis and be a great teammate. He also said that as a leader on the team, it's his charge to help the rookie out.
"As soon as it blew up, I reached out to him and said, 'Hey, I'm going to be a great teammate to you, I'm going to support you. They're making this out to something that it's not to be. It's not what it's been made out to be at all,'" he said. "He's been good. He was great with it throughout the whole time. It's been great to have him in the room and build that relationship."
Tannehill said he takes the word mentor "seriously," which might be why his earlier comments were misunderstood.
"There's a few people that I count as mentors. There's hundreds of people that helped me out throughout my career, but there's only a few people that I would consider mentors," he said. "A mentorship is something that both people have to want, both people have to agree to enter into that, and it's going to have to take a lot of time, energy and focus."
Tennessee began to entertain the idea of selecting a quarterback of the future heading into the draft this year. The Titans were the No. 1 seed in the AFC but lost to the Cincinnati Bengals at home in the divisional round of the playoffs last season. Tannehill's three interceptions played a part in the loss.
The Titans took the field as a team for the first time on Monday. So far, the relationship between Tannehill and Willis appears to be headed in the right direction.
"It's been cool," Willis said. "He's a great guy that works super hard and wants everybody to get their work. He's definitely someone that you can look up to."