NASHVILLE – You never forget your first love. Or your first NFL team, according to Avery Williamson.
The Tennessee Titans rekindled their relationship with the inside linebacker this week when they signed him off the Denver Broncos practice squad. Williamson started his NFL career as a fifth-round pick by the Titans in 2014 and he played 63 games for them over four years.
They went their separate ways in 2018 when the team allowed him to become a free agent. Since, Williamson has been with three other franchises but never completely moved on from his time with Tennessee.
“I was gone, but it’s kind of like an ex-girlfriend,” Williamson said Thursday. “You know, you’ll kind of keep up with her on social media, try not to like any pictures and stuff. But I kept up with them. I’m always watching.”
The 29-year-old provides some much-needed depth at inside linebacker, the latest position group to experience a rash of injuries. Jayon Brown is on injured reserve. Rashaan Evans and Monty Rice had issues in the last game and their respective statuses for Monday’s contest against the Buffalo Bills is to be determined.
Now in his eighth season, Williamson has played 94 games and has topped 100 tackles every year except 2019, when a knee injury caused him to miss the entire regular season.
“He is a good run defender,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “Quick diagnosis. Reads. Reacts. I liked him, watched him while he was here. I haven’t seen a whole lot of him since then. I know he moved on in free agency about the same time I got here.”
In Williamson’s last season with Tennessee, the franchise ended an eight-year playoff drought but changed coaches shortly thereafter. Vrabel was hired to replace Mike Mularkey and has led the Titans to their first division title in more than a decade (2020) and their first appearance in the AFC Championship game in 17 years (2019).
Williamson split time with the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers over the past three seasons but was a part of just one playoff game, the Steelers’ loss to Cleveland last season. He was out of work this season until Denver added him to its practice squad, where the Titans looked him up.
“I was only there for like a week,” he said. “I knew that I would have an opportunity there, but I didn’t know when. I talked to my dad about it. He was saying, ‘You’ve got a team calling, wanting you to play. I think you’ll probably have to take it.’ That’s what I did.”
This particular team not only offered him the opportunity to go back, but it also provided him the chance to go home. Williamson is a native of Milan, Tenn., roughly a two-hour drive from Nashville.
“As soon as I got the text from my agent I was already hyped up. I was like, ‘Man, if I have an opportunity to go back home … ,’” Williamson said. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while.
“… Being able to play for the organization that drafted me, I’m thrilled with it. And the Titans are doing amazing things right now.”