Ryan Tannehill practiced during the portion open to reporters Wednesday for the first time since spraining his right ankle Oct. 23 and was limited.
The veteran had some company. Rookie wide receiver Treylon Burks, the 18th pick overall in April, practicing for the first time trying to return from injured reserve.
Potentially two big steps forward for an offense that barely has more yards passing (1,238) than running (1,138) this season.
Tannehill sure hopes so. He said both he, the rookie and the rest of the offense are excited to have the 6-foot-2, 225-pound receiver back on the practice field and hope he can be available as soon as possible.
“A guy who was coming along nicely for us early in the season, kind of hitting his stride, finally kind of settling in, hitting his stride, you know, being in his rookie year and then unfortunately went out with the injury,” Tannehill said.
The veteran quarterback has seen a lot of Burks in the training room the past couple of weeks.
Burks went on injured reserve Oct. 8 after being carted to the locker room in Indianapolis with an injured left toe. The Titans (5-3) had their bye Oct. 16.
Combined with a new NFL rule requiring players to spend a minimum of four games on injured reserve, Burks has had an extra week to recover.
Coach Mike Vrabel praised how hard the rookie has worked while on injured reserve before the Titans activated his 21-day practice window. Burks made sure to stay in shape physically and mentally with Vrabel calling it the best the rookie has been in handling distractions, which can be a challenge for young players.
“Whenever he is ready, I’m excited for him to get back out there,” Vrabel said. “We will see where that is this week, because he has been in here. He has been on time. He has done everything that we’ve asked him to do, he has worked hard and we’ll just have to see where he’s at physically.”
The Titans rank 31st, averaging a mere 136.3 yards passing per game. Their passing yards are last in the NFL only because they've played one fewer game than Chicago.
Despite missing four games, Burks still is the second-ranking receiver with 10 catches for 129 yards. The Titans as a team have only 51 receptions for 658 yards with one touchdown. Veteran Robert Woods leads Tennessee with 22 catches for 256 yards and the one TD.
A.J. Brown, traded by Tennessee to Philadelphia in April, has 43 catches for 718 yards and six TDs.
The Titans combined for 135 yards passing over the past two games with rookie Malik Willis starting for Tannehill. The rookie wasn't helped in the 20-17 overtime loss in Kansas City by at least a couple of dropped passes.
Now Tennessee has to face the NFL's top passing defense Sunday, hosting the Denver Broncos (3-5) and a unit allowing only 165.8 yards a game. Yes, Burks could help.
“He’s got what you look for in this building and how we like to play, which is strength, size, speed," Tannehill said of Burks. "He plays the ball well, has good hands. So definitely has all the tools that you look for in a wide receiver and fits our scheme well.”
NOTES: Five starting defensive players did not practice Wednesday after the Titans defense played 100 snaps, including plays wiped out by penalties, against Kansas City. Defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, a 2021 Pro Bowl lineman, wore a walking boot on his left ankle in the locker room. That ankle has kept him from practicing the past two weeks. OLB Zach Cunningham (elbow), OLB Bud Dupree (hip), S Amani Hooker (left shoulder) and NT Teair Tart (illness) sat out. Hooker missed last week's game with his injury. Starting CB Kristian Fulton (hamstring) and starting ILB David Long (knee) were limited). Henry was limited but not injury related.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press