NASHVILLE – Here’s what we know so far about wide receiver Treylon Burks’ first offseason: It has not gone as either he or the Tennessee Titans would have preferred.
Here’s what we don’t know so far: Just about everything else.
If trading A.J. Brown qualifies as the Titans’ biggest bombshell of the offseason, and if Ryan Tannehill’s mentoring remark qualifies as the most memorable comment of the offseason, then Burks’ status should be filed under the most challenging offseason mystery.
Here’s a brief recap of what we’ve seen from the Titans’ first-round draft pick in 2022, the 18th overall selection in last month’s NFL Draft:
• Burks struggled on the first drill of the first day of rookie minicamp in mid-May, appearing to have trouble breathing. He used an inhaler at some point and then left the field. Burks would later return to the practice session, but participated only sparingly before once again departing.
• On the second day of rookie minicamp, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Burks was present for the entire session and participated in some drills, but not as many as most of his fellow receivers.
• During Tuesday’s OTA session, Burks was again only a partial participant during drills, and he also left the field on one or two occasions.
So what gives?
The most obvious theory is poor conditioning, a natural suspicion when a player looks gassed, struggling to complete the same drills that fail to slow his peers.
That belief gained plenty of steam during the first day of rookie minicamp, when temperatures hit the mid-80s and conditions were humid.
But there are at least a couple reasons to wonder if there’s more to the story than simply poor conditioning.
One reason is Burks’ use of an inhaler, which might mean he suffers from asthma or exercise-induced asthma, “a narrowing of the airways in the lungs triggered by strenuous exercise. It causes shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and other symptoms during or after exercise,” per mayoclinic.org.
Along those same lines, do we really believe that Burks, a highly productive, elite-level SEC athlete, fell so far out of shape following the NFL Scouting Combine that he couldn’t even make it through the first drill on the first day of Titans rookie camp? Seems like a stretch to me.
That’s admittedly a double dose of speculation, but it’s the only thing we can do right now given the lack of clarity provided by Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who – as we all know by now – is loath to divulge even the tiniest detail involving player injury or illness.
Has Burks been dealing with allergies, Vrabel was asked Tuesday?
“I’m not going to talk about allergies to pollen right now,” he replied. “I think everybody’s got allergies.”
So has it just been a matter of conditioning that’s limited Burks?
“The reps that we put him in there, I don’t think there’s any limitations right now,” Vrabel said.
The question, of course, is what about the reps Burks didn’t take?
A successful NFL coach, Vrabel is entitled to withhold information if he so chooses.
But the longer we don’t know, the more fans are likely to speculate that the team’s top draft pick reported to rookie minicamp out of shape.
Is that really fair to Burks if it’s about more than simple conditioning – if he’s working through a medical issue as well? It seems that a 22-year-old kid who’s never played a down of NFL football would be catching a bad rap – again, if the issue is more than conditioning.
It’s entirely possible, even probable, that this situation clears itself up as the offseason turns into training camp in a couple of months.
Most of us remember, for instance, that Derrick Henry didn’t light it up during his first rookie minicamp, but things turned out pretty well on that front. A little patience is in order.
Still, the fact that Burks is off to a slower-than-expected start is an understandable eyebrow-raiser for Titans fans.
Burks is the natural long-term replacement for the recently traded A.J. Brown – a Pro Bowler -- and will be counted on to produce right away given the number of question marks in the Titans’ receiver room.
In addition, the Titans’ two previous first-round picks – tackle Isaiah Wilson (2020) and cornerback Caleb Farley (2021) – have for very different reasons produced very little.
Should we classify concerns on that front under post-traumatic draft disorder? Yes.
But a little clarity on Burks’ situation would be helpful, especially if it helps the young man avoid unwarranted criticism.