NASHVILLE – This time last year, Jonnu Smith was recovering from a season-ending knee surgery.
The Titans tight end still had a way to go in his rehabilitation, and he was faced with some uncertainty heading into the 2019 season.
Fast-forward to now.
Coming off the best season of his career, Smith is currently going full steam ahead as he prepares for the 2020 season. He's working out in a one-on-one setting with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and he'll head into the season as the team's No.1 tight end.
"It is definitely a great feeling, that you can just go into the offseason and get ready to work," Smith said during a Zoom conference call on Wednesday. "The past two years for me, in the offseason I've kind of been in recovery mode. This is the first season I got to actually really go at it 100 miles per hour as soon as the season ended. We lost to Kansas City (in the AFC Championship Game), and I was back working within a week-and-a-half I was so excited to get back to it.
"Me being able to get back to it and get back in the swing of things, it was definitely a good feeling."
Smith, who caught 35 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns last season, said he's been working with Tannehill several days a week in South Florida.
The two have been meeting at a local park for the past few months without missing a week.
"It's been very helpful, just building the chemistry and taking advantage of being in the same location," Smith said. "We're just trying to get ahead and continuing to work on our craft so we can improve any way we can. It's been great we've been able to get that work in, and I'm sure it will put us in a good position during the season."
In three NFL seasons, Smith has 73 catches for 854 yards and eight touchdowns. He had a memorable touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone in an AFC Divisional playoff contest at Baltimore.
Earlier this offseason, the Titans parted ways with veteran tight end Delanie Walker.
During the Zoom call, Smith called Walker the "OG" while complimenting him for his guidance, and advice.
He knows the expectations will be even higher in a tight ends room that also includes returning tight ends Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt. After praising Walker, Smith concluded by acknowledging he's "tight end 1 now" on the team, but he said he's ready for the challenge.
"As a professional, you just want to continue to improve, and continue to build off any momentum that you had (from the previous season) just to get better," Smith said. "I am focused on getting better and better and improving and improving. Because if you are not in it to maximize your abilities, then I feel like you are in the wrong business.
"So, I am just trying to improve and get better and work on my craft, and I am having fun doing it. … I am trying to be the best player I can be to help this team win as many games and win championships. For me, I'm tight end 1 now, and I'm just going to take advantage of the opportunity I have in front of me and continue to be a workhorse and do what is expected of me."
Titans Online looks back at tight end Jonnu Smith's 2019 season (Photos: Donald Page)