NASHVILLE – Taylor Lewan did not mince words when it came to his performance in Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
“That s--- sucked,” the Tennessee Titans Pro Bowl left tackle said. “That s--- was awful. And I don’t want to go through that again.”
Thursday, Lewan met with the media for the first time since his team’s 38-13 loss at Nissan Stadium, in which the Titans allowed six sacks, five to Chandler Jones. It was just the third time since 1982, when sacks became an official stat, that a player had at least five in Week 1. Not coincidentally, Jones was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.
Throughout most of the contest, Jones, a three-time Pro Bowler in his own right, was lined up across from Lewan.
“Chandler Jones is a stud, right? There’s no denying he dummied me all day,” Lewan said. “I have to be accountable. I wasn’t accountable in that game to my team, to myself, to my family to everyone watching, to the fans.
“… I felt like one of those kids in (a high school highlight reel) when a five-star athlete is playing against a 165-pound kid playing tackle, kind of just doing whatever you want with me. That’s kind of just what it was.”
It was hardly the performance Lewan envisioned for his first game since Oct. 18, 2020, when he sustained a season-ending knee injury against the Houston Texans. Reconstructive surgery led to a long offseason of recovery and rehabilitation in which his activity was limited throughout virtually all of training camp and he got just 11 snaps of game action during the preseason.
That made the 2021 opener unlike any contest the eighth-year veteran has played in his career. Before last fall, he said, the only surgery he ever experienced was when he was 21 and his tonsils were removed. That procedure caused him to lose 15 pounds. This one saddled him with the burden of expectation.
“I think I put too much on the game,” he said. “I got too excited. I kind of maybe got a little over-excited before the game and when the game came, I felt drained. Legs felt heavy. And I had anxiety – I was more worried about messing up than I was about being better or helping the team.
“… I should have handled the situation better, maybe calming my nerves. I remember it being Monday before the game and I’m amped up. It’s like, ‘Well, what the hell am I doing?’”
By the second half, Lewan was cramping and was forced to sit out a total of nine plays over two possessions.
“You get an IV [because] you’re cramping, and you come out and they announce that I’m coming back in the game and you get booed by the fans,” he said. “That stuff happens, man. It hurt, but at the same time – the way I was playing – I don’t blame them. They want the team to do well. They’re not just booing for me. So, I’m sorry for letting them down.”
He conceded that he made matters worse as the contest progressed. Rather than simplify his play and focus on what he does best, he tried to adjust to everything that Jones and the rest of the Cardinals defense threw at him, which cluttered his mind and clouded his physical gifts.
Shortly after the game, he took to Twitter, wrote that he got his “ass kicked” and then quickly took a social media break. At home that night, he stewed over what had happened and how to make sure it does not happen again.
“There wasn’t any energy in my play, and there wasn’t attitude and the way I usually play,” Lewan said. “It was what it was. … At first, it’s like, ‘F---, that was embarrassing.’
“… I’ve been a long time in this league and have had a lot of success. … It’s something I have to overcome and work through. And I plan on doing those things.”