Simmons Makes An Impact In Titans Debut

David Boclair

Imagine if Jeffery Simmons had practiced for more than one week before he made his NFL debut.

To some, it was unthinkable that the Tennessee Titans’ first-round pick would play at all in 2019 because of a torn knee ligament sustained during pre-draft training. Others never considered the possibility that he might be ready to take the field just days after he was cleared to resume full activities. Few – if any – envisioned he would make the kind of impact he did in the Titans’ 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.

Simmons was not a starter but the rookie defensive tackle was on the field in the final dramatic moments of a game that was not decided until a seconds remained. He stopped Chargers running back Melvin Gordon for no gain on first-and-goal from the 1 with 34 seconds to play. On the next snap, Tennessee’s defense forced and recovered a fumble that sealed the outcome.

“To help this team win is big,” Simmons said. “It’s all football, as I had said earlier this week, I’m not going out there timid.”

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive lineman out of Mississippi State actually was a factor throughout. He notched his first tackle and his first tackle for a loss all at once late in the first quarter, when brought down Gordon for a 1-yard loss. He got his first career sack on the Chargers’ first possession of the second half.

When all was said and done, he was credited with four tackles (most among the team’s defensive linemen), was the only one on the defense with a sack and was responsible for two of four tackles for loss.

“I mean, it looked like a big dude that was going forward [and] was excited about playing football,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “It’s a long journey for him. He’s a great kid. He’s a better person than he is a football player and we think he’s going to be a great football player. This is the kind of guy you want to be around. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Simmons, selected No. 19 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, spent all of training camp, the preseason and the first six weeks of the regular season on the Non-Football Injury list because of the knee issue, which required reconstructive surgery. His first practice was Monday, and he was added to the 53-man roster on Saturday.

Throughout the offseason and the early part of the regular season team officials stressed that they had reason to believe Simmons would recover quicker than most. Simmons added that he believed he had absorbed enough in the classroom and through meetings with coaches that he would know what to do when the time came.

Against the Chargers, he was ready to go. And now it looks as if he is here to stay.

“That’s what I do, and I just went out there and played my game,” Simmons said. “I was trusting the process and trusting their plans for me, and it has gone from there.

“… It felt wonderful, being out there with my teammates and having the opportunity to help my team win.”

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