NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As his teammates packed up earlier this week, one player was already itching to start back.
Titans tight end Delanie Walker has been a spectator too long.
"I know some of these guys may want to take a break after a long season," Walker said. "I am trying to get back so I can hit this ground running. I can't wait to put on cleats and get out there running again."
Walker, of course, was lost for the season in Week One when he broke his right ankle against the Dolphins. Walker was placed on Injured Reserve, and he's been recovering – and rehabbing -- ever since.
The Titans finished the year 9-7, barely missing out on the playoffs.
It was a tough fall for Walker, he admits.
"It is promising, to see where we were at even with the type of players we had hurt. To see what they did, I was happy – I thought guys did a great job for us to lose guys like we did this year," Walker said. "It was hard watching it from the outside, and knowing I am not able to help the team. It just hurt me not being out there, not being able to help my team and my quarterback."
So where is Walker, a three-time Pro Bowler, in his return?
Walker isn't yet running. He hopes that will happen in the coming weeks.
He knows he still has a ways to go, even though he's made great strides.
"The schedule is coming along just the way we all thought it would be – on track pretty much. I feel like I am pretty ahead of where I should be, and I am just going to keep working," Walker said. "I have three more months until I am fully recovered. I just have to keep trusting the process, and try and get better for next year.
"My goal is to be ready for OTAs, but I am not sure what they are going to have me do. I don't think they want to rush this, knowing what time of injury I had. I want to be able to run and catch balls and run routes (in OTAs), but we'll see what happens."
Walker, 34, knows some will doubt whether he can make it back to pre-injury form. He's heard it before, he said.
Walker was voted as a captain by his teammates before the start of his 13th NFL season. He was named to his third straight Pro Bowl in 2017 after he led the team with 74 receptions for 807 yards and three touchdowns.
In his career, Walker has caught 483 passes for 5,673 yards and 34 touchdowns. He played his first seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before signing with the Titans prior to the 2013 season.
"I don't really remember how old I am," Walker said with a smile. "They can judge me all they want. I already know people are going to say it's going to be a struggle to come back off an injury like this. … They doubted me before and look how far I got. I am just going to prove everybody wrong.
"(Coaches) know the type of player I am, and they just want me to get back and be healthy. When I am on field I am going to try and make plays, and I know coaches are going to give me an opportunity to make plays."
TitansOnline.com looks back at TE Delanie Walker's 2018 offseason. (Photos: Donn Jones, Gary Glenn, AP)