Titans OLB Rashad Weaver Thrilled to be Back in the Mix

weaver-rashad-practice

NASHVILLE – Rashad Weaver knows the saying.

"Man, what do they say? Patience is a virtue," Weaver said with a smile after Friday's practice. "I haven't always had it, but it's something I kind of gained and learned in college when I tore my ACL my junior year and that paid off for me here. I've watched a lot of football, on TV, on the big screen, on my couch. … But I always tried to focus on the end goal."

Weaver, a fourth-round draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, is back on the practice field and competing after spending most of his rookie season recovering from an injury.

It's safe to say the outside linebacker is thrilled to be back, and he's feeling good.

"It is everything," Weaver said. "Being hurt in the NFL can get lonely. Being back around the guys, back in the locker room, having two legs I can actually walk on and do stuff and getting to do what I love … it is everything I want."

Weaver, a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award (presented to the national defensive player of the year) during his final season at Pittsburgh, flashed a year ago in training camp and the preseason with the Titans.

In fact, he was credited with 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, three tackles, and one tackle for a loss in his preseason debut against the Falcons last year.

In the regular season, Weaver played in Week 2 at Seattle, and a week later against the Colts he tallied two tackles before suffering a broken fibula. He was placed on Injured Reserve, which ended his rookie season.

He spent the rest of 2021 recovering, and rehabbing.

"I think he had a great mindset, dealing with that," linebacker Harold Landry said of Weaver. "I am excited to see him out here every day. I feel like he has made great strides ever since he got here, and I am excited to watch him play."

Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said he thinks Weaver took advantage of the time he spent sidelined.

"I think what he benefited from was being around here in the offseason to get a lot of reps to get in shape. To get healthy, to study," Vrabel said. "The one thing that I always respected about Rashad when he was with us last year, healthy, was how hard he played. There were things that weren't perfect and there were mistakes. But he played with great effort and that's always a great place to start. And I think what he's done this year now is come back healthy in camp and started to try to look to define a role for himself. Working hard on special teams, I think that's something (he) probably had improved in the offseason was his ability to help us on special teams or understand that. And for some guys coming out of college, that's new, especially those defensive end types that transition to edge players in our league. They have to be able to play special teams."

Earlier this offseason, Titans GM Jon Robinson raved about Weaver, the 135th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

In nine games at Pittsburgh in 2020, Weaver (6-4, 259) totaled 35 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He led the ACC in sacks per game (0.83 avg.) and tackles for loss per game (1.61 avg.).

"His progress has been great, and he's working hard," Robinson said of Weaver. "Rashad is maybe one of the hardest workers out of that rookie class. ... He has been extremely diligent with getting himself back. I know he loves football. Football is important to him. So, it has been fun to kind of watch him grow and really bust his can to try and help the team."

On Friday, the 6-foot-4, 259-pound Weaver said he shakes his head when he looks back at his tape from early in the rookie season, during the preseason.

He knows he has a lot of improving to do still.

But he likes where he is, and where he's heading.

"The first thing anybody would say after being out that long is 'knocking off the rust'," Weaver said. "I just have to knock off the rust on the technique and fundamentals, and bring it back. And, pad level, that is going to continue to be my (focus) – when I have low pads, it is hard for people to block me, and I can make a lot of plays. Those are things I continue to focus on. But it comes back quick and I kind of got that rust off in OTAs, so coming into camp it was just getting back to running full speed and hitting guys a little more.

"It's just great to be back. Imagine (having what you love) getting taken away from you for 8 to 10 months. It was hard being away from something you love, feeling like you are missing a part of yourself. Being back out here is everything to me."

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