NASHVILLE – Bud Dupree had a one-track mind. Until he found that he could not change direction effectively.
The Tennessee Titans outside linebacker admitted Thursday that his drive and his ego got the best of him in his recovery from reconstructive knee surgery. As a result, he has missed the last two games, and his status for Sunday’s contest at Jacksonville is undetermined.
“The number of plays that I had, [and] not taking myself out of the game once I felt pain – I let my pride get in the way,” Dupree said. “I take full responsibility for that and for not being able to perform at my ability.
“… I think it’s just timing. … I was trying to play five weeks ago. I feel like that shows the way I’m thinking. I want to be on the field and show this team what they got me for.”
The Titans signed Dupree to a five-year, $82.5 million contract in the opening days of free agency with the idea that he would enhance their pass rush – eventually. Franchise officials were well aware of the fact that his 2020 season – his sixth with the Pittsburgh Steelers – was cut short by a torn knee ligament, which required him to undergo reconstructive surgery in early December. Dupree started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, did not play in any of the three preseason games and no timetable was established for his return.
Still, the 28-year-old seemingly beat the medical odds when he took the field in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals and again in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. He played at least 70 percent of the defensive snaps in both contests and was credited with two tackles and four quarterback pressures.
What he found, however, was that he could protect himself a bit during practices because – to some degree, at least – he knew what was coming. That’s not the way it works in games, particularly when it came time to react and to cut quickly based on the what he saw.
“It just happens all at once,” Dupree said. “That was the biggest thing that put pressure on my knee. … You just don’t feel like yourself, movement-wise. You feel pain. You try to fight through the pain. It’s just mental football.
“Everyone wants to play hurt. Everyone wants to play through pain. But sometimes, these types of injuries you just have to sit back and take time.”
That’s what he has done recently. Dupree was in uniform, but was available only on an emergency basis, in Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts. Last Sunday against the New York Jets, he was inactive for just the second time in his career after having sat out an entire week of practice.
Through four games, the Titans are tied for 19th in the NFL with eight sacks, an improvement of three through the same point last season. Dupree has none.
“Man, you’ve got to push pride aside and realize that it was my choice to go on the field,” Dupree said. “It was my mistake. I just have to be as smart as I can because it’s a long season, and I need to be on the field when it counts.”
Of course, there is a difference between passion and practicality. Dupree, who was a limited participant in this week’s first practice session, does not lack for the former.
“I’m going to try to get back as quick as I can,” he said. “It’s only Week 5. We have 17 games total. I’m just going to try to make sure I’m available through the stretch when this team really needs it and make sure that I’m giving it my all.
“… I wouldn’t count this week out, though.”