Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Bud Dupree returned to practice on Wednesday.
Normally, that alone wouldn’t be newsworthy, but Dupree’s journey back following an ACL injury last year has been anything but normal.
The 28-year-old edge rusher tore his ACL in Week 12 of last year — an injury that typically requires a nine- to 12-month recovery window. For comparison, Titans’ tackle Taylor Lewan tore his ACL two months before Dupree, and he disclosed he was still having issues with his recovery in Week 2 at Seattle.
Dupree was back playing 70 percent of Tennessee’s defensive snaps in Weeks 1 and 2. In those two games, he recorded two tackles, a quarterback hit, three QB pressures and two QB hurries. He also blitzed three times. Still, Dupree admitted something simply didn’t feel right.
“Redirecting and playing fast, physical football is my game,” Dupree said on Thursday. “It’s what I do. Being big, fast and being able to change direction quickly at this size. But when you can’t do that, it just takes a toll on the player. I couldn’t do it at all.
“So now, I’m getting back to that. I’ve just got to make sure the limited plays I start out getting that I’m coming in full speed, giving it all. I’m still going to go 110 percent regardless of if I’m hurt or not hurt.”
On Thursday, Dupree confessed that he let his competitive nature take charge, conceding that he began to let his pride dictate the timetable for his comeback instead of listening to his body.
A real-life embodiment of the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, if you will.
“It’s more so my mind being ahead of my body,” Dupree said. “I rushed it. I let my pride get in the way. I should’ve waited a little longer.
“A lot of guys who tore their ACL before me are just starting to come back and play. I was trying to play five weeks ago. So, I feel like that just shows the way I’m thinking, that I want to be on the field and show this team what they got me for. But also, it’s another bump in the road where I’ve got to sit back and say, ‘Alright, these guys tore their ACL Week 2 or 3 of last year and I tore mine in December, why am I on the field before them?’”
Dupre has sat out the Titans’ last two games. He was dressed against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3 but was available only in an emergency situation, according to head coach Mike Vrabel.
Now, although a limited participant in practice the last two days, Dupree appears to be making the necessary strides. He may not play against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, but Dupree is at least getting closer to returning and now he’s approaching it smartly.
“He’s competitive [so] he’s frustrated,” defensive coordinator Shane Bowen said. “Anytime a guy has missed some time, they’re going to be frustrated. But I think he’s handled it like a pro, and I think he’s been engaged, understands what we’re doing…We’ll see how the week goes and see if we’re able to get him out there on Sunday.”
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