NASHVILLE – Veteran defensive lineman Jack Crawford joined the Titans back in April, and he could hardly wait to get to work.
But the coronavirus pandemic put the NFL on hold, so Crawford waited.
When NFL camps opened in July, Crawford finally had a chance to unite with his new teammates in Tennessee. Then he had to put things on pause again after being placed on the team's Reserve-COVID-19 list.
Not exactly the start Crawford had in mind.
"It was tough," Crawford said on a video conference call on Sunday. "At first it was just tough kind of being in that position. When you're told that you have to go into quarantine it's like a shock, and then at first you can get pretty down on yourself. I was worried at first that I was going to fall too far behind. Coming back from that, I felt like I was over-worrying. I felt like I was stressing too much. Coming back, the coaches, Coach (Mike) Vrabel, they take it in stride. They're glad that we're back. It made me feel better about coming back."
Crawford (6-5, 274), an eight-year veteran who has played with the Raiders, Cowboys and Falcons since entering the NFL in 2012, worked on his own while his teammates worked on the field.
Quarantine life was unique, to say the least.
While living in a hotel room, Crawford went old-school to get his body right for camp. He used resistance bands and did push-ups and sit-ups to get his heartrate up. He took part in video conference calls with teammates and coaches to stay on track in the classroom, while they were sweating on the field.
Crawford practiced for the first time on August 20. His third practice was on Sunday.
On his second day on the practice field, at the team's August 21 practice at Nissan Stadium, Crawford got the attention of his head coach.
"I'm excited to work with Jack," Vrabel said. "Just watching his effort the other day -- the first play that he was in there in the scrimmage, the play went to the sidelines and he was flying down the line of scrimmage and was there. He had a great play (Sunday). Just his effort level. He's a veteran player and what has stood out to me has been the effort that he's been able to show since he's gotten back off that COVID/Reserve list."
Crawford said that's what he's all about.
"In terms of effort, that's something that I brought that to football since I started playing," he said. "I guess it's helped me stay in the league, it's also helped me catch up when I have to. I understand I'm coming from a position where I'm a little bit behind. So, I think that that kind of helps me probably catch up with the rest of the team."
The Titans believe Crawford will be a nice addition on a defensive line with DaQuan Jones, Jeffery Simmons, and several others competing for roster spots, and playing time.
In 93 career games, Crawford has recorded 132 tackles and 16 sacks. He recorded a career-high 35 tackles and six sacks during the 2018 season with the Falcons, where he played for the past three seasons. In 16 games with the Falcons in 2019, Crawford tallied 24 tackles and a half-sack. In his first season with the Falcons in 2017, Crawford suffered a torn biceps injury in Week 4.
In eight seasons, Crawford has started 26 games.
A fifth-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 2012 NFL Draft, Crawford was born in London, England. He moved to the United States in 2005 and attended St. Augustine Preparatory School in Richland, New Jersey.
Crawford, who played collegiately at Penn State, played his first two seasons with the Raiders (2012-13) before playing three seasons with the Cowboys (2014-16). He's played at defensive tackle and defensive end during his NFL career.
On Sunday, Crawford said he's still catching up.
But he feels like he's in the right spot in Tennessee.
"I think it's great," he said. "It's funny, coming here, I'm probably the lightest person weight-wise on the defensive line. Everybody's probably got around about 10, maybe 15 pounds on me. Coming here, I see the style of play here. I've worked with Coach Terrell Williams. He was my defensive line coach my first two years in the league, coming in as rookie. I have history with him. I've played with DaQuan (Jones). I went to the same school – I went to Penn State with DaQuan Jones. Meting the rest of the guys has been good. There's a certain culture on the D-line, a type of guy they have, this straight up guy, solid people, they're not hard to work with. Everybody kind of supports each other in a certain way.
"On the field, we all value hard work and we all value effort. Things that basically help a D-line perform to the level that we need to. We all hold each other accountable and I think that we're going to help each other kind of progress to where we need to be based on coming in on such a hard year this year, having no preseason games, and no real measurement to evaluate each other by, or to evaluate ourselves by. I think it helps having a D-line that keeps each other accountable."
Crawford, who just began playing football as a junior in high school, smiled when asked how his new teammates are getting used to him, especially with his British accent.
It turns out it's been an adjustment for some of them as well.
"It's tough because my accent – sometimes people will catch on to some words I say and they'll be like, 'What?' They'll say like, 'What'd you say?' and they won't understand what I'm saying, and I'll have to kind of almost adjust my accent so they understand what I'm saying better," Crawford with a smile.
"It's always been an issue for me. Obviously since I came to the country my accent was a lot stronger, and then over time it kind of faded a little bit. Now I go back to London and everyone says I sound American. My accent got caught in middle. I go to London, I'm American. I come over here, people say I sound funny. It's stuck in a weird place. I'm just trying to hold onto what little bit of accent I got left."
A look back at defensive lineman Jack Crawford's first eight NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders. (AP Photos)