NASHVILLE – Bud Dupree arrived in Music City just over a year ago, a veteran player on a new team and in a new city, and still recovering from a significant knee injury.
Dupree settled in, and he began to feel like himself at the end of the 2021 season.
A year later, however, the Titans edge rusher said he's in a much better place, on the team, in the city, and with his health.
"It feels way different," Dupree said after a minicamp practice this week. "I don't have to get used to things any more. I already know the routine, and I know the vibe. And you feel more comfortable, you play more comfortable."
As for the injury – a torn ACL – he's feeling great.
"I feel like the knee is all the way back," Dupree said. "All I need to do is stay on top of it and maintain. But it feels way different. It feels way better."
After spending his first six NFL seasons with the Steelers, Dupree recorded 17 tackles, three sacks, 15 quarterback pressures and two tackles for a loss while playing in 11 games, with six starts, with the Titans in 2021, along with two tackles for a loss, a pass defensed and a forced fumble.
But he said he didn't really begin to feel like himself until the team's playoff game against the Bengals, when he was disruptive.
Dupree spent the first half of this offseason training on his own, while getting work in with pass rush specialist Chuck Smith.
"The focus this offseason has been getting my mobility back in my knee, getting my bend back in my stance, power off the ball, as well as turning the corner better and getting low at the top of the rush," Dupree said. "Those are things that were fundamental prior to the injury, but you've got to make sure you continue to do those things coming back to retrain the brain."
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said it was great to have Dupree back for minicamp, but he's most looking forward to what he sees from him in training camp.
"I'm going to reserve judgment for training camp," Vrabel said of Dupree. "But, Bud came back with great attitude, looked great. Physically just, again, hard to evaluate. They're not rushing (full), you know? I mean, we're not doing any of those things that you could say either way."
Titans outside linebackers coach Ryan Crow said a year under his belt in Tennessee should Dupree.
Plus, Dupree's confidence is key.
"I think it's extremely important," Crow said of Dupree. "We want all of those guys to feel the best they can – they are not always going to feel 100 percent, that is the nature of the game. But you want them to feel good about they are and be able to focus on the game, and not so much about themselves and their body. So, I am excited. I love where his mindset is right now, and I love how he's feeling."
"For Bud, this going to be a huge offseason, a huge training camp coming up, just to get back in the scheme of things. Year 2 for any player should be better with the scheme and he should be better and more comfortable in the system. We'll just keep pressing."
Dupree, who recorded 19.5 of his career 42.5 sacks in the two years with the Steelers before arriving in Nashville, said he felt better as the season went on last year after being slowed with the knee early, and later with an abdominal injury.
Dupree, who had surgery on the ACL in December of 2020 while in Pittsburgh, thinks he'll have no limitations moving forward.
"Your mind is telling you one thing, but your body is telling you another," Dupree said of last year. "My confidence is at a different level (now). And that's what it takes to play the game — having confidence can help take things to a different level."