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VOL. 45 | NO. 33 | Friday, August 13, 2021

Injury absence gave Titans' Lewan deeper appreciation for game

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Titans linemen Dillon Radunz, left, Taylor Lewan and David Quessenberry during preseason practce. Lewan says lost 2020 season left him missing the game, teammates and even practice.

-- Photo By Mark Zaleski | Ap

Taylor Lewan doesn’t come off as the sentimental type.

The Tennessee Titans left tackle mostly comes as advertised, whether it’s his collection of tattoos, his penchant for playing through and, occasionally, past the echo of the whistle or just his outgoing personality.

But with football taken away from him for most of 2020, Lewan had time to reflect and appreciate just how much he loves the game and how thankful and blessed he is to be back and on track to return to the lineup for 2021.

An ACL injury and the surgery and rehab that goes along with it will do that. Lewan now knows just how glad he is to have football back in his life and to be a key part of the Titans offensive line once again.

“I have a new-found appreciation for the game, and I definitely feel like I’m back to my normal self if not a little bit better,” Lewan says of coming back from surgery.

That new appreciation even has Lewan eager to practice. Lewan got into team drills for a period last week for the first time since being injured in Week 5 last year.

“I miss the boys. I missed playing. It’s crazy. I miss practice,’’ Lewan says. “I remember waking up like two days after we got here, because me and Rodger (Saffold) came in early to help some of the rookies out and, obviously, to start getting some good rehab and getting on the field. I woke up two days later and my legs are sore and I’m, like, stoked about it. It is nice to feel the pains of football and getting calloused back up.

“I missed it all.’’

How will things be different for a post-surgery Lewan than maybe they were before? Let’s just say that if there ever had been an Allen Iverson “practice” moment before, there is no chance of that now for the Titans 2014 first-round pick, who is now entering his eighth NFL season.

“I think a lot of people will see that in my game this year,” he says. “I’ve always cared, I’ve always played hard, but I’ve never had an injury before.

“I’ve been hurt, but I’ve never had surgery before in my life. I’d never been under the knife. I got my tonsils out when I was 21, but this is a whole different deal.”

The veteran admits that the rehab process and plan took its toll, and there were some dark days while he was making his way back from the surgery.

“Going through the process and going through points (where you wonder) am I ever going to be the same person again. You’re relearning how to walk, you’re relearning about your strength. Am I going to be strong enough to play this game again?” Lewan says.

“There’s a lot of ebbs and flows, not only physically, but emotionally as well. I’ve been going through a lot of that and I’m just really appreciative to be where I’m at right now.”

Lewan even kept a journal to help himself through the recovery after his surgery. He adds it helped him deal with the mental side of coming back from the injury.

“You don’t really have a choice when it comes to an injury. There’s days when you wake up and getting out of bed sucks. You’re in pain. Even when you’re three or four months in, you’re like why the hell am I still feeling like this?,” he recalls. “It’s just kind of every day is a new day. You’ve got to keep grinding forward.

“I’ve got this book that I wrote in every single day of what I want to accomplish, what I want to manifest and, obviously, what I’m grateful for and those kinds of things. It helps you reset. There was definitely a lot of resetting, because there were a lot of downs.”

Head coach Mike Vrabel is pleased with where Lewan is in the recovery process, and knows that he will have to be careful with each step of the plan.

“Taylor is a large part of what we are doing here,’’ Vrabel points out. “He does have some energy and excitement, I do feel like he has been able to harness that for the good and not do some of those things that would hurt the team and try to learn from some of those.

“He has been locked in and he has done everything that we have asked him to do in his return, and he wants to add to it. He wants to do more so that is positive. What we ask him to do is individuals, one-on-ones, working conditioning, and he has done all that. Hopefully, we can progress here to the next step and see where that goes.”

For Lewan, the hardest part of the injury might have been not being able to be a part of the team last season. The Titans won the AFC South championship by going 11-5, but Lewan found it a tough task to watch their wild-card playoff loss to Baltimore in person from inside Nissan Stadium with his family.

“That was the first football game I’d ever been to in my life as a spectator,” he says. “It was just weird being there, watching the guys warm up and thinking I should be out there.

“I’m sitting with the family and my kid and they’re not paying attention and talking and I’m almost like, ‘Guys, you need to focus.’ That was a weird deal.”

Barring any setbacks, Lewan shouldn’t have to endure that again when the Titans open the season Sept. 12 at home with the Arizona Cardinals.

“Barring anything, there is going to be no issues. Week one is not going to be a problem. I feel great,” he says.

Terry McCormick publishes and appears 2-4 p.m. weekdays on the George Plaster Show on WNSR-AM 560/95.9 FM.

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