NASHVILLE, Tenn. --** Bishop Sankey's time in NFL rookie exile finally is over.
The running back stayed away from the Tennessee Titans this offseason until he finished the academic quarter at Washington except for a rookie minicamp. That meant he missed all but one of the Titans' organized team activities, but finally rejoined the team Thursday. The Titans conclude the offseason program with a three-day minicamp next week.
Sankey said it was a little strange being a pro player and a student, with NFL rules requiring him to stay away from the team until finishing out the quarter. He was allowed only to take part in a rookie minicamp after the draft.
"It's one of the rules you've got to stay there and knock out your classes until your school gets out for that year," Sankey said. "But it's just a blessing at the same time to be able to knock those classes out and still be a part of the NFL chasing your dreams."
Not that he was on campus at Washington. He finished his history of mass media and mass media law classes for his communications major while training in Los Angeles. He took his final exam Tuesday before flying to Tennessee on Wednesday, and the Titans had him on the field Thursday with Shonn Greene recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
The Titans traded down 12 spots with the Eagles in the second round, but still snagged Washington RB Bishop Sankey. (AP Photos)
"It's pretty apparent watching him today in practice he's a good runner, he's got a good feel," coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
"You can see that with the way he moves. He's in good shape. It's just the mental part of it. I guess the best way to say it is mentally he's in good shape, but when you get on the field and things start moving quickly the normal thing to do is have a little bit of hesitation, and you see that."
The Titans need the second-round draft pick to produce — and quickly. They released Chris Johnson in April, and Greene missed five games last season running for 295 yards on 77 carries in the first season of a three-year contract.
Sankey ran for 1,870 yards as a junior at Washington. He averaged 5.72 yards per carry with 20 touchdowns, and he also caught 28 passes for 304 yards.
To help him keep up with the more than 600 plays the Titans installed during the organized team sessions, he had an iPad with the playbook and was able to monitor film. He also said he talked almost every other day with running backs coach Sylvester Croom to learn as much as possible.
Still, studying alone and practicing with the team that's busy working a couple thousand miles away isn't easy. Sankey, who's been given Johnson's old locker, said he feels like he's in football shape. He slipped a few times Thursday and also got a couple plays wrong coming out of the huddle.
"I think that'll be corrected easily with time and more reps I get," Sankey said.
Whisenhunt isn't worried about Sankey catching up by training camp. The coaches will have players for 10 hours daily Tuesday through Thursday next week in the mandatory minicamp, up from the six hours allowed per day during the organized team workouts. That means coaches can put them through practice and walk-throughs with extra meetings to correct mistakes.
Receiver Nate Washington is just one of the veterans interested in seeing what Sankey brings to the offense. Washington was so curious he watched film of the rookie minicamp to check out Sankey.
"He's a lot faster than I thought he was," Washington said. "It surprised me, so I'm excited about that opportunity to get that speed on the field and do some stretching with his ability to catch."