NASHVILLE – Bud Dupree is getting there, step by step.
Over the past nine months, the Titans edge rusher has crossed hurdles mentally and physically to get to where he is today.
As the calendar flips to September, and the regular season inches closer, Dupree feels like he's in a good place.
"Pretty much everything I've done tested, (I've) checked the boxes off so far," Dupree, who suffered a torn ACL last season while with the Steelers, said on Tuesday. "They have done a great job here. Hat's off to the training staff, and hat's off to coach (Mike) Vrabel for allowing me to go through that process.
"I am going out there to be my old self, and be better than I was last year."
Dupree, who didn't play in the team's three preseason games, said his plan is to be on the field at Nissan Stadium for the season opener on September 12 against the Arizona Cardinals.
"If the opener was this afternoon, and (they) told me to go out there, I am going to go out there," Dupree said. "I'm going to be ready to go regardless."
Dupree, signed back in March, returned to practice last month after being taken off the team's Physically Unable to Perform list.
In practices, he's done more each week to try and get ready to play.
"Started off with just doing pass rush and change of direction drills, and once you start feeling comfortable with that, you go into team (drills) and actually feel somebody push on you, and you pushing back on them," Dupree said. "That is the next step, that's what you really want to feel. I was out there and had great confidence. I am just excited to keep going and get more and more involved in the game plan."
Vrabel said Dupree "continues to progress."
Dupree acknowledged the next big hurdle for him will be to get into game condition.
"I think we have put a little bit more on him each day here in the last week or so," Vrabel said. "(We'll) continue to monitor him and see how he feels as he works through his return to play. Hopefully he won't have any setbacks and we can continue to add to his workload. As far as improvement, his attitude has been fantastic. There is a fine line – you want to be able to learn and you want to be able to lead, and that is hard having not been out there. He has stayed into it, he has stayed positive, he stayed as a large part of our football team even though he hasn't been able to be out there in the preseason games or for most of the practices."
A first round pick of the Steelers in the 2015 NFL Draft, Dupree recorded eight sacks in 11 games in 2020 before suffering the season-ending knee injury and he also posted 31 tackles, 8 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hits.
Dupree posted a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2019 with 17 quarterback hits and 16 tackles for loss. Dupree's 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons rank eighth and his six strip sacks rank fourth in the NFL since 2019.
Dupree is now counting the days before he can return to the field, and finally put the long wait behind him.
"The whole thing was devastating at the beginning, but I feel like I've handled the process well," Dupree said. "The work you put in, you have to take it upon yourself to make sure you are doing the most you can do, and doing it to the best of your ability.
"Even the rehab lately, I am still making sure I'm at the top of my game so I can be ready for Week One."