Wide receiver Treylon Burks failed to make it through his first practice as an NFL player because of conditioning issues.
NASHVILLE – Mike Vrabel said it could have happened to any of them.
Nine draft picks, 17 undrafted players and seven others invited for tryouts took to the practice field for the first time as professionals Friday during the Tennessee Titans’ rookie orientation. All of them prepared for the opportunity over the preceding weeks and months, but likely none were fully prepared for the physical demands they faced.
Yet it was Treylon Burks, the Titans’ first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft who appeared particularly ill-equipped to handle the workload. The wide receiver out of Arkansas was visibly out of breath when he walked off with a trainer during the individual period, which happened in the first 20 minutes of the nearly 90-minute session. After a brief stay inside the training facility, Burks returned to the field for a time but exited once again stayed inside the rest of the time.
“I think it’s hard to think that they can recreate with a trainer how we do things,” Vrabel, Tennessee’s fifth-year coach, said. “We see that with (veterans) that have come back and started with our offseason program and guys that have joined a few weeks in. It’s just different.
“I know that they were working, and they think they were trying to get in shape, but that’s just not the case.”
The workout took place early in the afternoon under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-80s. It was not exactly the searing conditions players will face during training camp in August, and there were five wide receivers among the 37 participants (in addition to the rookies there were four players with minimal NFL experience), more than at any other position group. So, Burks did not get an inordinate amount of reps.
Plus, the conditions were not exactly foreign to the Warren, Ark. native who played college football at the University of Arkansas.
All of the others made it through, however.
Burks was scheduled to meet with the media following the session. That changed because he was with the training staff, and fourth-round pick Hassan Haskins, a running back out of Michigan, stepped to the podium instead.
“It was definitely different, coming from Michigan,” Haskins said. “I mean, it felt nice. It was hot, but it felt nice.”
The rookie orientation is typically an eye-opening experience on multiple fronts, including the physical requirements, and always has been. It is not unique to the Titans and their time with Vrabel.
Back in 2010, Derrick Morgan, Tennessee’s first-round pick that year, talked about how the pre-draft process for high-profile prospects makes the things more difficult in the immediate aftermath.
Morgan noted that the travel for interviews adversely affected his workout schedule and diet in March and April. He then sustained a hamstring during conditioning drills immediately after the rookie orientation and sat out the first of that year’s minicamps. He also was injured at the start of training camp and ultimately played four games as a rookie before he finished the year on injured reserve.
The Titans need Burks to be healthy and productive. They acquired him with a pick obtained from Philadelphia (18th overall) in last month’s trade for A.J. Brown with the idea that he could fill the role that Brown played for the past three seasons. Burks, who is 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, often was compared to Brown in pre-draft scouting reports.
That made his issues on Friday more noteworthy than they would have been for virtually any of the other participants.
“He’s good,” quarterback Malik Willis said of Burks. “That’s my roommate too. So, I’m going to chop it up with him.”
The rookies will have another on-field session Saturday. Things will ramp up even more Monday when they join the veterans for on-field work as part of Phase 2 of the offseason conditioning program.
“They all have a long way to go,” Vrabel said. “We all have a long way to go. We all have a lot to improve on and I think the great thing with this group is maybe we can only improve some of those veterans just a little bit. … All these players out there on that field (Friday), there’s a lot for them to work on.
“… We’ve got to get these guys in here and we’ve got to study. We’ve got to learn what to do, teach them our program. If (Burks) is back out there (Saturday), we’ll coach him up.”