Lewan's Lengthy Absence a Rarity at Left Tackle

From 1999 until now, three players have started the vast majority of games at that spot for the Tennessee Titans.
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NASHVILLE – Taylor Lewan underwent reconstructive surgery on his right knee Tuesday.

His podcast partner and recently released linebacker Will Compton shared news of the procedure on Twitter, which took place a little more than a week after Lewan was injured in the Tennessee Titans’ recent overtime victory over the Houston Texans.

The surgery was a stark reminder of what already was clear – that the three-time Pro Bowler would miss the remainder of the regular season.

“It’s kind of like re-finding the voice in the room because Taylor is so energetic and has a big presence,” offensive line coach Keith Carter said. “… We miss Taylor, and we want him to have a really speedy recovery. But these guys understand it can be a tough game.

“… We’re going to continue like it’s business as usual. We just know it’s a little more quiet in there.”

It’s also a situation the franchise has not faced often during the Titans era (1999-present). In that time, Tennessee has had three primary starters at left tackle, and all three – Lewan, Brad Hopkins and Michael Roos – were remarkably durable in that role.

From 1999-2005, Hopkins missed just 11 games and never more than five in a season. Roos missed 12 games from 2006-14, but just one in the first eight seasons.

Lewan has had the job since the start of 2015. Before Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh, he had played 79 out of a possible 85 games, and four of the six he missed were because he was suspended by the league, not injured.

The only time the Titans have needed more than two starters at left tackle was 2014, when a knee injury cut short Roos’ final campaign and Lewan had his season cut short by an ankle issue. Roos started the first five games of that campaign before he got hurt. Lewan took his spot and played six games before he too was hurt. After that, journeymen Will Svitek (three games) and Jamon Meredith (two games) got the team to the finish. The offense allowed 20 sacks in those final five games.

This season, Lewan started the first five games before he was injured. The Titans can only hope that does not signal a repeat of 2004.

Otherwise, injuries have not been much of an issue.

Hopkins had a reliable veteran backup in Jason Mathews, and the Titans went 5-6 in the games that Hopkins missed. In recent years, they went 2-4 when Dennis Kelly, another veteran, filled in for Lewan.

Now it is Ty Sambrailo, who started Sunday against Pittsburgh and his play earned a positive review from coach Mike Vrabel. It was Sambrailo’s first start at left tackle since he was a rookie in 2015, but he had stepped in for Lewan at times in three of the first four games.

“He’s played throughout the course of the year at different times, which probably got him ready for that,” Vrabel said Monday. “If we get that type of play from (Sambrailo) going forward that would be a huge positive.”

It will be something different for Sambrailo, who never has been a starter more than four games in a season.