Bud Dupree has not had an easy road getting back to where he was pre-ACL tear, but the Tennessee Titans are being amply cautious with their star edge rusher.
The 28-year-old Dupree tore his ACL last December against the Ravens and has been slowly but surely chipping away at his rehab assignments ever since.
The former first-round pick out of Kentucky was one of the more-feared pass rushers in the NFL last year, registering 31 tackles, nine sacks, 15 quarterback hits, 28 QB pressures and two forced fumbles for the Pittsburgh Steelers until his injury.
His recovery process has been slow but effective as he’s made great strides to return to his best with Titans defensive coordinator Shane Bowen easing him into practice. Dupree was activated off the PUP list on Friday.
"It's up to the coaches, whatever they think I'm ready to do,” Dupree said regarding his expected timetable for practicing at full-strength. “Just building back in slowly, you know, that's the appropriate way they do it here. We communicate well with each other. [The coaches] asking me what drills I want to do, just making sure it's beneficial for me. While they're doing special teams [drills], I'm over by myself in that little unit as well, so it's fun man just being able to move around again."
When the Titans signed Dupree to a five-year, $82.5 million contract during free agency, the surely knew getting him back to 100 percent would be a work in progress. A payday like surely would incentivize Dupree to be around his teammates as much as possible, learning the playbook and familiarizing himself with the Titans defensive scheme until he can resume full-padded practices.
"My knee has been holding up pretty good,” Dupree continued. “The doctor did a great job, rehab went great, so you know that aspect of it is behind me, but now it's just staying on top of that. Also, just going out here with these guys, like I said, getting the communication down, because it's a whole different communication than what I [have] been used to. So, I wanted to make sure that my above-the-neck game is great and then that way I can just go out there and fly around."
Dupree saw his first action in full pads in practice on Friday, taking drills with head coach Mike Vrabel and working on hand placement and creating leverage when rushing the line.
His progress in practice looks to be taking shape again as he showed signs of getting his movement to the elite level he's played with for the last six seasons.
"I'm just trying to get where I was at before,” Dupree added. “I don't think about it like what I did wrong or what I could do to prevent it, like just keep playing football and you know things happen in football. So, in between then and between A and Z, I just got to make sure that I'm playing full speed, so that's what I'm going to do."
One step closer to returning to full strength, the Titans expect to get the same Dupree that flies to the quarterback and create chaos in the backfield. Over the last three seasons, Dupree has averaged 8.3 sacks, 15 QB hits, 12 QB hurries and 27 QB pressures per year.