Titans WR Rishard Matthews Anxious to Return to Practice Field, Set Example for Young Receivers

Donn Jones

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans receiver Rishard Matthews is a veteran who likes to lead by example.

On a team filled with young receivers, he'd love nothing more than to be on the field showing the way, letting his game speak for him.

Unfortunately, he's been sidelined. He remains on the team's Physically Unable to Perform list.

"I try to lead by example, the way I practice, the way I play, and the way I compete," Matthews said on Thursday. "It's been tough, because I haven't been out there.

"I have been away for too long, and missed all of OTAs and training camp for the first time in my career. It is a first for me, but it is a part of the game and I just have to be on top of my things so I'll know what I am doing when I come back. I'm hoping to be back soon. Real soon."

Matthews made his comments during the media's open locker room period after practice.

Earlier in the day, he was spotted running routes before practice, with Titans coach Mike Vrabel lined up across from him.

"It is good to see him working," Vrabel said, "and kind of being excited and getting close to coming back and rejoining the team off of PUP."

Matthews didn't take part in the team's OTAs in May and June, or in the offseason minicamp.

At the start of training camp, he was placed on PUP.

But Matthews said he's improving.

"It will just be good to get back out there," Matthews said. "Just watching the guys and not being able to be out there and compete, it is something that you don't like, but it is part of the game and the training staff has done a great job of getting me back right, so it is there now."

Over the past two seasons, Matthews has led the team with 1,740 receiving yards and 13 touchdown receptions, and he's ranked second on the team behind tight end Delanie Walker with 118 catches. His 14.7 yards per reception average ranks ninth among all NFL players with at least 100 receptions during that time.

Matthews said he's been impressed with the team's young receivers. He said he's tried to encourage them, and offer advice at times. But he admitted he'll be more effective when he's back in uniform. When healthy, he'll add a veteran presence on the field alongside a young receiving corps that includes Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe.

"I try to let a lot of guys learn on their own, and let the coaches teach," Matthews said. "If I feel like I can give advice, I definitely do. But at the same time I just sort of sit back and let them do their thing because it is tough. A lot of the guys have never seen me practice or do anything, so it is tough when I haven't been out there to show them what I am trying to tell them.

"In the meeting rooms and practice I try to give advice here and there. But I think the group has done a great job. We have a lot of playmakers who can do things with the ball in their hands, and get open."

A veteran of six NFL seasons, Matthews believes he'll be effective once he returns.

Matthews initially signed with the Titans prior to the 2016 season, and he's played in 30 games over the past two seasons. Matthews caught 53 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns in 2017, one year after catching 65 passes for 945 yards and nine touchdowns. Matthews has 225 catches for 3,136 yards and 21 touchdowns.

He played his first four seasons with the Miami Dolphins.

"If you've played long enough, getting back out there won't be hard,'' he said. "It will be just getting back into football shape really."

Earlier this week, Matthews and the Titans agreed to a one-year contract extension.

His contract, initially set to expire in 2018, now runs through 2019.

"It would be nice to finish out my career here," Matthews said. "I think Jon (Robinson) and Amy (Adams Strunk) and management have done a good job of bringing guys in. It means a lot that they were even willing to go to the table and negotiate things being that I've been injured. Just to show that type of commitment and loyalty, it means a lot.

"I enjoy the team, I enjoy the city and I enjoy playing here. Hopefully I can end my career here."

TitansOnline.com looks back at wide receiver Rishard Matthews' first two seasons in Tennessee. (AP Photos)

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