NASHVILLE – Vic Beasley believes he still has the opportunity to make a good first impression.
Forget the fact that the free agent linebacker arrived 10 days late to the start of Tennessee Titans training camp due to an unexcused absence. Ignore that once he did show up, he failed a physical and spent the remainder of the time on the non-football injury list.
For the 28-year-old outside linebacker, the game is the thing. And it looks likely that his first game with the Titans will be Sunday at Minnesota.
“Anytime you come to a new environment, you know, you want to have that great first impression,” Beasley said Friday. “You want to just show the people that you’re really, really into working with the team and want to be here.
“I’m excited. I feel like this is an opportunity for me to put myself back in that category of one of the elite pass rushers. … It’s a new start for me. I’m more than excited about it. I know the coaches are excited about it, and the only way to find out what I can do – that’s by playing.”
In his first media availability since he signed a one-year, $9.5 million deal in March, Beasley shed little light on his absence at the start of camp. He called it “a disagreement” that had been resolved but offered no specifics about the nature of the dispute or even with whom he had it.
Regarding the knee injury that kept him off the active roster until the first week of the regular season, he said it was something that had been an issue for an extended period and that is actually dates back to his college days. That too, he said, was all but behind him.
“Physically, I’m at the point where I feel like I can play,” he said. “So, going forward, that decision is up to the training staff and whether they feel like I’m able to go out there and perform. You know, you can’t just go out there and play, you have to actually be effective and make a difference.
“… Mentally, I’m happy. I’m good on the scheme of the defense. I’m understanding of what they expect of me. And I think I’m in a good place right now on ends.”
What the Titans expect is for the 2015 first-round pick (eighth overall) by Atlanta to beef up a pass rush that has produced just two sacks through the first two weeks of the season.
Beasley led the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks in 2016, when he was named a first-team All-Pro and made his only Pro Bowl appearance to date. In three seasons since, he has produced just 18 sacks (an average of six per year), and questions about his desire have been raised.
His first impression with the Titans did little to quiet speculation about his passion for the game and his interest in being part of a team.
Then again, no one has seen him in the lineup against an opponent.
“I love the game,” Beasley said. “I love playing the game. I know there’s been a lot of question marks about whether I love playing. But I wouldn’t waste nobody’s time if I didn’t love playing ball. If I didn’t love playing ball, I would just tell the coaches, ‘Look for somebody else that may be a better fit for the organization.’
“I’m not going to give nobody no half-hearted effort. I’m going to give them the best of what I’ve got, and that’s making sure I’m mentally prepared and physically prepared.”