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VOL. 45 | NO. 37 | Friday, September 10, 2021

Tannehill, receivers have some rust to shake in opener

By Terry McCormick

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What’s an NFL season without a COVID-19 interruption? We already saw how COVID wreaked havoc last year, moving games around, closing the Titans practice facility and generally making everyone jump through hoops to try and squeeze a full season in.

Now with stricter protocols in place to accommodate both vaccinated and unvaccinated players, the rules are much more organized, rigid and streamlined, but no less taxing.

Consider that the Titans have already had 10 players plus head coach Mike Vrabel and special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman spend time on the COVID-reserve list at various times throughout camp and preseason. For Vrabel, it’s about dealing with whatever COVID might throw at you and moving forward as best as possible.

“Nothing surprises me. Whether it’s the league, your family, my family, we all have to just understand that we’re going to deal with some things,” he says. “We’re going to deal with positive test results from vaccinated people. We’ll follow the protocols how we have to and try to be as safe as we possibly can.”

Vrabel says he isn’t concerned about conditioning levels for players who are coming back from the COVID list, trusting that the team’s training and medical staff would not green light anyone who is not ready to return.

“We’re not gonna clear somebody until we feel like they can go out there and do their job and do it in a matter in which we expect and also to be able to function,’’ Vrabel says. “We wouldn’t clear anybody that we didn’t feel like was ready to come back.’’

Vrabel says he checks in with the players on the COVID list and is sure they were doing things to stay as active and conditioned as possible while quarantined.

But as the regular season dawns Sunday against Arizona, all the excuses will be out the window.

Watch the players who have missed time due to COVID and see how quickly they can get back up to speed, and not only physically.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, for instance, was just beginning to get practice reps with his new receiver Julio Jones, who had been out with an injury, when Tannehill tested positive Aug. 26 and was sent to mandatory quarantine for 10 days.

Those are 10 days of valuable time lost, and a number of practice sessions that now must somehow be made up on the fly.

“I think that kind of goes without saying. I don’t think I’ll have to say too much. Ryan’s going to have to build a relationship with him on the football field,” Vrabel says of Tannehill and Jones.

Still, questions remain regarding the overall team chemistry.

As of Monday, starting center Ben Jones and starting right guard Nate Davis were still on the COVID-reserve list with the Titans hoping to activate them in time for a much-needed full week of practice and preparation.

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