NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)Outside linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. appears ready for his long-awaited debut with the Tennessee Titans.
The man who led the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks in 2016 spent all of this year’s preseason on the non-football injury list with a knee injury. Beasley finally passed his physical Sept. 5 but didn’t practice for a full week until this week. He is expected to play his first game for the Titans (2-0) on Sunday at Minnesota (0-2).
Beasley talked with reporters Friday for the first time since agreeing to a one-year, $9.5 million contract in March and said he wants to make a great first impression.
”This is an opportunity for me to put myself back in that category of one of the elite pass rushers, and I think this is a new start,” Beasley said. ”It’s a new start for me, and I’m more than excited about it. I know the coaches are excited about it, and there’s only one way to find out what I can do, and that’s by playing.”
Beasley had been a bit of a mystery the past few months. The Atlanta Falcons, who took him with the No. 8 pick overall out of Clemson in 2014, let him leave in free agency. Beasley led the NFL in sacks in 2016 when he also forced six fumbles, and he had eight sacks last season.
He signed with the Titans, then missed the first 10 days of training camp. That made him subject to a $50,000 fine for each day missed for what the general manager called an ”unexcused” absence. Once he reported, the Titans put him on the non-football injury list.
Beasley stayed there until he passed his physical Sept. 5.
The Titans also signed outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney on Sept. 7. Clowney has played both of the first two games, helping Tennessee start 2-0 for the first time since 2008.
Asked why he reported late for camp, Beasley said he had some things to work out with a ”little disagreement here and there.” Asked if the disagreement was between himself and the Titans or his representatives, Beasley declined to go into detail.
”We settled our differences, and we’re both understanding of the situation,” Beasley said. ”So it’s all good. It’s all smiles on both ends, and we’re happy to work.”
Beasley also said the knee issue that put him on the non-football injury list is something that he’s been dealing with since college. He praised the Titans’ training staff and said his knee has gotten better since being in Tennessee.
He feels the Titans welcomed him when he reported for camp. He says the Titans allow a player to be himself, which also helps coming to a new team.
”I had some areas that I worked on myself as a human being, and I’ve got that under control and now we’re on the right path and we’re headed towards being one of the best teams in the NFL,” Beasley said.
The big attraction in coming to Tennessee was the chance to work with coach Mike Vrabel, who had 57 sacks in his 14 seasons as an NFL linebacker.
”I feel like that can only benefit me in a number of ways because I feel like he understands like my mindset in a way because he’s played the position before,” Beasley said. ”He has plenty of experience in that area so I’m excited.”
Having Beasley available will help a pass rush that needs a boost. The Titans have only two sacks, and one came from safety Kenny Vaccaro. Beasley sounds eager to play again, saying he knows there’s been questions about whether or not he loves playing football.
”If I didn’t love playing ball, I would tell the coaches to go look for somebody else that may be a better fit for the organization,” Beasley said. ”But I’m not going to give nobody no halfhearted effort. I want to give them the best of what I got, and that’s by making sure I’m mentally prepared and physically prepared.”
NOTES: The Titans declared WR A.J. Brown (knee) out for a second straight week. Rookie CB Chris Jackson (hamstring) is out, and OLB Derick Roberson (illness) will miss his third straight game.
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