Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has never been one to make things easy on the media.
So, when pressed regarding the absence of star receiver Julio Jones for much of the fourth quarter in Sunday’s 25-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts, Vrabel didn’t just toe the line between hedging and apprising; he jumped rope with it.
“I felt like it was in the best interest of our football team, and everybody involved, that he be available in an emergency situation at that point in time,” he said. “There hasn’t been, other than one omitted lapse in judgement in the first game, which everyone would agree on — myself, the team, Julio — one situation where I was disappointed. He has played physical, came back, and played great last week, played physical yesterday and that was where we were.”
It was clear from his lack of candor what Vrabel was trying to do. The fourth-year head coach couldn’t just come right out and say Jones tweaked something and was being held out as a precaution.
No, that would leave the door open for Jones’ injury history to become a recurring story every week. It would also invite those who criticized Tennessee’s decision to bring in Jones while questions about his health had not been answered to become another unnecessary distraction.
“This is going to be the least I talk about injuries,” Vrabel continued. “This is what we do. This is not an issue with his performance. This isn’t an issue with anything other than me making a decision and saying, ‘Hey man, let’s see if we can get through this, and survive, and win this football game. It is a long season.’”
With Jones watching from the sidelines, the Titans held off a Colts’ comeback attempt with the likes of Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Racey McMath as Ryan Tannehill’s primary targets. Cam Batson and Chester Rogers were also in the mix as well.
After news broke on Monday that No. 1 wideout A.J. Brown is listed as week-to-week with a hamstring injury, holding Jones out as a precaution may have been the smart move.
The Titans can likely make it a few weeks without one but not both receivers. Through three games, Jones has 12 receptions for 203 yards, putting him on-pace for 68 receptions and 1,156 yards.
“He has done what we have asked him to do and has played with great effort," Vrabel said. "We will continue to make sure we get guys ready for the game and make sure that their health and their safety is paramount.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_