Tennessee Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo (98) hugs quarterback Marcus Mariota, right, during the first day of NFL football training camp Friday, July 31, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey
August 01, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Brian Orakpo looks rock solid, so muscled that the Tennessee linebacker appears chiseled out of stone.

Now Orakpo insists he also feels nimble and healthy thanks to breaking down, then revamping a workout routine the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker believes led him to tear his pectoral muscle not just once or twice but three times.

''I was putting so much strain on different parts of my body that it was hurting more than helping,'' Orakpo said. ''All the chiropractors over the years and the trainers I had over the years down in Texas we kind of examined everything and just started from scratch. Hopefully, it can pay tribute to me staying healthy this year.''

Both Orakpo and the Titans need the six-year veteran to stay healthy after signing him to a four-year, $31 million deal in March. The Washington Redskins tagged Orakpo as their franchise player in March 2014 but let him go after he tore a pectoral muscle for the third time in his six-year career last October.

The 6-foot-4, 257-pound Orakpo first tore his left pectoral near the shoulder at the end of the 2011 season, then he tore the same muscle in the second game of 2012. Trying to tackle a running back Oct. 21 in a win over Tennessee, Orakpo tore his right pectoral muscle.

That pushed Orakpo to figure out exactly what he was doing to himself that led to the injuries, breaking down his normal regimen of lifting and starting over concentrating on improving his core muscles with lots of stretching including yoga to keep him flexible. Orakpo also uses a foam roller to loosen his muscles, including a hard ball to keep his pectoral muscles loose.

Orakpo has shared his approach with new teammate and fellow linebacker Zach Brown who tore his left pectoral just four plays into Tennessee's season opener last season.

''Hopefully, it can pay tribute to me staying healthy this year, and I gave a lot of things that I learned to Zach Brown to kind of stay on top of it so he can only have one (injured) pec and not others in the future,'' Orakpo said.

It wasn't enough to convince the Redskins to bring him back. Coming off a 2-14 season, the Titans were looking for playmakers willing to take a chance on a linebacker who has 40 sacks in 71 starts. Orakpo had 11 sacks as a rookie in 2009 to earn his first Pro Bowl spot, and he had 10 in 2013.

Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey had 10 1/2 sacks for Tennessee in 2013 but only had five last season. Casey is very excited to have Orakpo join linebacker Derrick Morgan on the outside to keep offenses from double-teaming him.

''With Orakpo on the outside, I know he's a great rusher,'' Casey said. ''They can't focus just on me. They got to take their focus on him. If they leave me one-on-one, we know big plays can happen. To have that type of character on your side of the ball is going to be great not just for me but for everybody else.''

Orakpo got his first real work with the Titans on Friday with the opening of training camp. Orakpo needed surgery to repair his latest torn pectoral muscle, so the Titans were cautious with him through the offseason to ensure he's fully healthy by the time the season starts Sept. 13. Orakpo celebrated his 29th birthday Friday and is very excited to prove he paid close attention in the classroom.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he told Orakpo before the conditioning test Thursday they will hold him back on some things in training camp even though they can see he's intense and ready to go.

''I want to see Brian down in Tampa playing, that's the most important thing, but we've got to get him ready too,'' Whisenhunt said.

Notes: Rookie QB Marcus Mariota was scheduled to sign autographs after practice Saturday afternoon, and the fan turnout was so strong even before practice that the Titans announced each person was limited to only one item.



AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL


Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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