When Tennessee Titans linebacker Harold Landry suffered an ACL injury during practice last week, those in and around Saint Thomas Sports Park immediately began speculating how the team would make up for the loss of its Pro Bowl edge rusher.
While Denico Autry, Rashad Weaver and Ola Adeniyi will likely form some type of rotation to fill Landry’s spot on the outside, perhaps the most pressure is on last year’s marquee free agent signing, Bud Dupree, who’s now fully healthy after an ACL injury of his own more than a year ago.
The 29-year-old linebacker, who’s now the highest-paid player on the active roster, admitted on Monday that he understands it’s time for him to play up to his five-year, $82.5 million contract.
“I just got to go out there and make the plays,” Dupree said. “[I’ve got to] be on the field, first and foremost, [and also] stay healthy each down and throughout the whole season. [I’ve got to] go out there and make the big plays, the splash plays that the team needs me to make.”
Dupree was in the same boat last season that Landry will be in next year. After spending the summer rehabbing and easing himself into the fold with the Titans, Dupree just wasn’t quite the same player he was pre-injury.
He was limited to 11 games, including six starts, and he only registered 17 quarterback pressures, nine QB hurries, eight QB hits and three sacks — all down significantly from the previous season in which he also played 11 games.
But as he reflected on the turbulence of his first year with the Titans, Dupree seemed optimistic that his journey — and those of Caleb Farley, Robert Woods and Taylor Lewan, who all have come back from ACL injuries over the last two years — could help to uplift Landry’s spirits.
“Back in the day, that injury was career ending,” Dupree said. “It still gives people that mindset when it happens that maybe it’s not going to be the same. The technology these days, the rehab these days, everything is way better. So, guys are bouncing back faster than they ever have.”
If there’s one brain on the Titans roster that Landry should be picking right now, it’s Dupree’s. Both players play the same position, they both have nearly the same build, and both suffered their injuries the year after their respective breakout seasons.
But as Dupree found out last summer, and as Landry is sure to find out this season, the tests that lie ahead — whether it be a lengthy rehabilitation program or the pressing of one’s mental resilience — go beyond the football field.
“It just teaches you about adversity,” Dupree said. “Really and truly, it’s a whole life lesson. Not just for football but for life in general, your family, your mental state as a human person. Sometimes you’ll have days you’ll want to give up. … But you’ve just got to fight through and get to the end of the tunnel.
“… It’s just one of those things that you’ve got to take on with your head up high. You can’t go in with your head down, feeling sorry for yourself because at the end of the day, it’ll make you or break you.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_