NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With his contract signed and out of the way, Taylor Lewan can focus on football – and that's a good thing since it appears the 11th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has plenty of positions to learn.
The Titans expect Lewan, the team's top pick out of the University of Michigan, to challenge both Michael Roos and Michael Oher for playing time. Now with left guard Andy Levitre expected to miss a few weeks following an appendectomy, Lewan can add another position to his plate.
"I think obviously we want to get him to play tackle where we think he's going to play," head coach Ken Whisenhunt said after Saturday's practice. "With Andy [Levitre] going down we want to get him in situations in guard, too. In long term thinking when you talk about game day with seven active [offensive linemen] those guys have to be able to do both, so this is a great opportunity to get him work."
Lewan lined up at left guard in both the walk-through portion of practice and full-speed team drills. The natural tackle has never played guard outside of a few practices during OTAs, but is willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field.
"I am excited to get reps in general," Lewan told reporters. "I want to play the game so whatever that takes. Am I a left guard at six-feet seven-inches and 315-pounds? Maybe not, but if that's what it takes I'm going to play left guard. It's a great opportunity to get out there and be with the ones. It's more of a comfort issue to just get in there and play."
The steep learning curve makes it even more important that Lewan is in camp and practicing from the get-go. He was the final 2014 draft pick to sign a contract, agreeing to terms on Thursday afternoon.
"I compliment Vin [Marino] and Ruston [Webster] for getting that done," said Whisenhunt. "When you have a player that you're expecting to produce for you it's nice to get him in camp on time."
Getting experience at guard gave Lewan a few one-on-one situations with star defensive lineman Jurrell Casey. That matchup will give the rookie much needed experience when he lines up at tackle against some of the NFL's best defensive ends.
"Going against Casey – he's a heck of a player," said Lewan complimenting the team's sack leader in 2013. "It's good to get out there and play against that speed. That transition will help me at tackle."
So far Lewan's transition from the college game to the NFL has been as smooth as possible. He is healthy and discussed how his offseason workouts made him ready for the start of camp.
The biggest difference for Lewan's transition to the NFL is that he is no longer the top dog on the field at all times.
"At the end of the day I'm playing football. Everyone is just a lot stronger, faster, and more athletic," he said. "It's just about going out there and playing. These guys are unbelievable athletes. You go from being the most athletic guy to just another athlete."
It's never completely smooth sailing for a rookie. Lewan understands that and accepts his initiation to the league is coming.
"It's great to be out here and it's great to play against these guys," he added. "I haven't had a welcome to the NFL moment, but I'm sure it's coming soon."