NASHVILLE – Julio Jones was more involved in Monday’s practice – the fifth of Tennessee Titans training camp – than he was in any of the previous four.
That involvement was cut short, however, when the recently acquired Pro Bowl wide receiver was slow to get up after an incomplete pass thrown to him during work in the red zone. Jones’ situation did not generate any kind of frantic response from trainers or coaches, and he did not go straight to the training room. When he left the practice field, it was under his own power.
“[Director of Sports Medicine] Todd [Toriscelli] said that he wanted to have (Jones) go inside,” coach Mike Vrabel said following the practice. “We wanted to give him some team reps, which we did. So, we will see where he is at (Tuesday) and see how he looks.”
When asked if Jones is healthy, Vrabel responded, “Yeah, sure.”
Coaches limited Jones’ activity through the first few days of camp as they did several other notable veterans, such as running back Derrick Henry.
At 32, Jones is one of the oldest wide receivers in the NFL this season. Injuries limited him to nine games played in 2020, his final season with the Atlanta Falcons. And even that, he has said, was more than he should have played given his health throughout the season.
Plus, his $15.3 million salary cap figure is the highest on the roster, and already in camp the Titans have gone without another of their top wide receivers, Josh Reynolds.
So, there is no shortage of reasons to be on edge about his health.
“I’m good,” Jones said Saturday, when asked about last season’s injury issues. “We’re just working and getting in the swing of things. That’s it.”
The obvious hope for the Titans is that whatever happened Monday, it was not serious.
A matter of trust: Marcus Johnson is not exactly new to the Titans, but the fifth-year wide receiver introduced himself – professionally speaking – to quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Logan Woodside. That, he believes, has served him well during the early days of camp.
“I think OTAs helped a lot, honestly,” Johnson said. “I think just making a couple plays then, bringing that momentum into training camp has been what’s given (Tannehill) confidence to take a couple chances with me. Same with (Woodside). He’s been throwing a couple up as well. … [It is] just trust and building from OTAs and everything.”
Tennessee signed Johnson to their practice squad four days before their playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens and then re-signed him in March, shortly before the start of the new contract year. He had played 11 games during the regular season, but the Colts released him ahead of their playoff game.
Kicking the tires: Sam Ficken has not been successful enough in the NFL that his credentials speak for themselves. But he is the newest participant in the contest to be the placekicker after the Titans claimed him off waivers from the New York Jets on Sunday.
Monday’s workout did not include a field goal period. Kickers only worked to the side on their own. So, his first real attempt to make a name for himself will come Tuesday.
“I think he is number four,” Vrabel said. “We got him from the Jets. Heard he kicked well (Monday).
“We are just trying to find guys that can compete at each and every position … and we will put him into the competition.”
Ready to rumble: The NFL-mandated acclimation period has passed, which means Tuesday’s practice session will be the first with players in pads. It is a landmark moment for any training camp and an opportunity for coaches to evaluate players in a different way.
“I’m excited,” defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons said. “Football is a game that is played with pads. What more can you ask for? Going to (Tuesday) and all of the guys are juiced up. I think the defense has a lot of energy right now. We’ve just got to keep that, especially with pads rolling in.”
The last word: “I’m going to be a big tone-setter. That’s my whole mentality, man, just coming out here and having fun. Young guys are going to look at me because I’ve been in it so long. So, whenever I slack, I feel like I fail the team or fail the young guys. So, that’s why I come out here and work so hard.” – cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins on his competitive nature at practice.