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Titans TE Delanie Walker More Motivated Than Ever as He Looks Ahead to 2019 Season


NASHVILLE – Titans tight end Delanie Walker was killing time on YouTube earlier this week when a video of his September 9 ankle injury popped up on his screen.

Walker didn't scroll past it. Instead, he clicked the video, and watched his right ankle break again and again, from multiple angles.

"This is going to be my motivation year," Walker said. "I always say that I am motivated every year, but coming off an injury like that and then me being 35 (in August) going into next season, I'll be extra motivated. I feel like this is the year I need to show everyone I came back from an injury, I'm 35, and I am still the best tight end in the NFL."

Walker, heading into his 14th NFL season, can hardly wait to get going.

After spending time with family and friends in California, Walker has returned to Nashville and is counting the days to the team's offseason program, which begins on April 15.

In a Tuesday evening interview with Titans Online, Walker discussed where he is from a health standpoint, his thoughts on the team's additions in free agency, quarterback Marcus Mariota, retiring Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, and more as he turns his attention to the 2019 season.

"My mindset is just to have a great year and stay focused, and make sure I am 100 percent when I step on that field," Walker said. "At the end of the day I know the way my treatment is going, and my rehab. I know I am going to be good, and I want to be even better than I was every other year."

In Week One at Miami, Walker was carted off the field at Hard Rock Stadium, his lower right leg in an air cast, after being injured in the closing minutes. After making a catch in the fourth quarter vs the Dolphins, Walker was tackled, and he felt the weight of a Dolphins defender come crashing down on his shattered right ankle.

He was placed on Injured Reserve, after after surgery and recovery, he's been rehabbing since.

Walker said he's making progress. He's been jogging on an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill, and he's been catching balls while doing lunges for stability on his ankle.

By design, he's lost some weight to help keep pressure off the ankle, but plans to put the weight back on.

Walker knows patience is still needed.

Coach Mike Vrabel said last week the plan is for Walker to be on an "individual development plan" at the start of the offseason program, which means he'll be on the field some days, but working inside rehabbing in the pool some days, or on the treadmill, as the team helps prepare him physically for the season.

The bulk of the team's offseason work is scheduled for late-May and early-June.

"That's going to be the hardest thing for me, sitting out and not being able to do much," Walker said. "I am going to have to hold myself back, because you know me and all the coaches know me -- I am the type of guy that wants to be on the field and do everything the other dudes are doing. That is probably going to be the hardest thing."

Walker said he's looking forward to meeting his new teammates.

He's fired up about the additions of receiver Adam Humphries, guard Rodger Saffold, defensive end Cameron Wake and quarterback Ryan Tannehill in free agency. Tannehill, who will back up Mariota, was acquired via trade.

"J-Rob always does a great job of getting guys in to help the team," Walker said of General Manager Jon Robinson. "I have been watching it all, and yelling from the outside. I am happy about some of these guys we've got, whether it's Tannehill, Wake – those guys are going to bring some leadership to the team. Older guys who have been there before, know how to do it.

"And Humphries, I have been watching him to see what type of player he is. The guy catches every pass, and his routes are unbelievable. So I am excited to see what he brings to the team. … This dude shows strength, he makes plays. Even though he wasn't the star, he looked like the star on Tampa Bay."

Walker said he's spent most his offseason in California, but he did travel to Mexico for former teammate Quinton Spain's wedding.

He said teammates inquired about his health. He spent some time there with Mariota, and the two have texted regularly this offseason.

"Me and Marcus sat down and talked," Walker said. "I think his mindset is the same – he's ready to go, like I am. I know he's going to do his job the best he can, and he's going to compete his butt off."

Walker said he was surprised to see Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announce his retirement, calling him a "monster on the field."

"In football, if your body is telling you that you need to stop, then you have to listen to your body," Walker said of Gronkowski.

As for Walker, he's only thinking about returning to the field.

Voted as a captain by his teammates for the fourth straight year before the start of his 13th NFL season, Walker was named to his third straight Pro Bowl in 2017 after he led the team with 74 receptions for 807 yards and three touchdowns.

In his career, Walker has caught 483 passes for 5,673 yards and 34 touchdowns. He played his first seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before signing with the Titans prior to the 2013 season.

He's ready to pick up where he left off, pre-injury.

"I can hardly wait. I want to get out there and get it going," Walker said. "I feel I missed the whole year, and I am ready to get back to the grind. I told (OC) Arthur (Smith), missing a year I feel like I need to get back on the grind. I want to be out there. Art is telling me: 'You have to take it easy.' But I missed the whole year. I felt bad that I wasn't out there last year, so I want to play and help the team." looks back at TE Delanie Walker's 2018 offseason. (Photos: Donn Jones, Gary Glenn, AP)

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