Walker Placed on IR, Will Miss Remainder of Season
NASHVILLE – Delanie Walker is done. Again.
Recurring issues with the ankle injury that caused him to miss nearly all of 2018 brought an early end to the Pro Bowl tight end’s 2019 season. The Titans placed Walker on injured reserve Wednesday.
The 35-year-old played in the first seven games, was Tennessee’s leading receiver through six weeks but was inactive for each of the last four contests. He finishes the season with 21 receptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns, which was enough for him to become the 16th tight end in NFL history with 500 career receptions. In 14 seasons (seven each with Tennessee and San Francisco) he has 504 catches for 5,888 yards and 36 touchdowns. The vast majority of his receptions (381) have come for the Titans.
Walker was a limited participant in practice last week but could not go against Jacksonville, which prompted this week’s decision to shut him down for the remainder of the campaign.
“Unfortunately, we probably just didn’t think that we would be able to get him back for some meaningful snaps,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “And that’s disappointing to not only Delanie, but to me and this team. He worked extremely hard and he tried to come back but just wasn’t able to.”
The decision came a day after the Titans placed veteran outside linebacker Cameron Wake on IR. Wake, 37, and Walker were the two most senior players on the roster.
Kicker Ryan Santoso was signed to fill Walker’s spot. Santoso’s role is unclear given that Tennessee has an established veteran kicker, Ryan Succop.
Walker has one season remaining on a two-year, $17 million contract extension he signed prior to the 2018 season. Since then, he has played eight out of a possible 27 games. A dislocated ankle sustained in the 2018 opener at Miami caused him to miss the remainder of that season and ended his streak of three straight Pro Bowl appearances. This season, he took a hit on that same ankle, which created the issues that ultimately led him to IR.
He missed most of the game against the L.A. Chargers on Oct. 20 and has not played since. His streak of 83 consecutive games with at least one reception ended against the Chargers.
“To see what these guys have done without me playing is exciting,” Walker said last week. “I just want to get back on that field and try to do my part.”
That is not going to happen, which means the tight end responsibilities now fall squarely on Jonnu Smith, a third-round pick in 2017, Anthony Firkser, undrafted out of Harvard in 2017, and MyCole Pruitt, a fifth-round pick by Minnesota in 2015 who is on his fourth team. Smith already has set career-highs with 22 receptions and 287 yards (he also has scored one touchdown). Firkser has eight receptions for 131 yards and one touchdown. Pruitt, primarily a blocker, caught his first pass of the season Sunday against Jacksonville.
“All these guys have different roles and they’re here for different reasons,” Vrabel said. “Then some guys get kind of an expanded role. … We have to still find ways to get some production and have that group help us.”
The Titans (6-5) face the Colts (6-5) on Sunday at Indianapolis in a critical AFC South matchup.