NASHVILLE – Everything was new to Dez Fitzpatrick in 2021, and because of that, it was a rocky road at times.
Looking back, the Titans receiver admits it all made him grow up.
"I had no idea what to expect my rookie year coming in," Fitzpatrick said after Tuesday's OTA. "Now I have a year underneath my belt, and I kind of know what to expect, how things are run certain ways.
"(Last year provided me with) a lot of motivation going forward, from how things started, to how I was able to deal with it. I just continued to work my tail off. And I am excited for this year and expecting to have a big role – I am trying to."
Selected in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Louisville, the Titans cut Fitzpatrick last August after a disappointing training camp. The team then signed him back to the practice squad, and he spent a good chunk of the year there, learning.
In the second half of the season, Fitzpatrick got a chance to play.
Things weren't perfect, but he ended up catching five passes for 49 yards and a touchdown while playing in four contests.
Earlier this offseason, Titans General Manager Jon Robinson praised Fitzpatrick for his growth.
"I think Dez really grew as a player," Robinson said. "I think he has developed his skillset, and he understands what the pro game takes now – he did not understand that (last) August. But he has grown, and I am just really proud of the steps he has taken."
The growth has continued.
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill complimented Fitzpatrick after Tuesday's OTA after he made a tough catch across the middle, with safety Amani Hooker in tight coverage.
"Dez is working," Tannehill said of Fitzpatrick. "He came down to Florida and threw with me for a few days, we got some good work down there. I'm excited to see the progress he has made. He made a tough catch (Tuesday), coming across the middle, safety on his back, through the contact. It was just great play strength to finish the play and make the catch across the middle.
"As a quarterback, you trust the guy, tight window, defender on their back, you make the throw and he makes the play for you. That gives you a lot of confidence to be able to come back and throw into the tight windows and make the plays. Now it is all about consistency. Just coming out on a daily basis and dong it."
Fitzpatrick, who caught 154 passes for 2,589 yards and 21 touchdowns as Louisville, said he felt it was important to get in extra time with Tannehill this offseason, so he decided to make the trip to South Florida.
"It starts with the trust from your quarterback – he's the one with the ball in his hands at all times," Fitzpatrick said. "If he doesn't trust you, most likely you're not going to do too much. ... So, I am just starting to grow up."
This offseason, he wants to continue to build the trust of those around him.
Fitzpatrick knows opportunities could be there at a position that's seen plenty of changes in the last few months.
"I am just working my tail off to try and earn a role on this team, just building the trust with my coaches, my teammates and obviously the confidence level within myself, it starts there," Fitzpatrick said. "So that's what I'm working on right now."