As expected, the Tennessee Titans will be without star tight end Delanie Walker likely for the remainder of the season.
While Coach Mike Vrabel wasn’t ready to say that Walker’s season is over, the Titans placed the 13-year veteran on injured reserve on Monday, a day after his suffered a broken right ankle when Dolphins defender T.J. McDonald put his weight on Walker as Walker was going down following a catch. The force of McDonald’s weight caused Walker’s ankle to pin underneath him at an awkward angle late in Sunday’s 27-20 season-opening loss in Miami.
“He’s probably going to have surgery sometime in the next few days,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel announced at his Monday press conference. “It’s disappointing because he puts a lot into it and he plays hard. He’s been a productive player for us and is somebody I was excited to coach and be with. We’ll see where he’s at after surgery and re-evaluate his potential to return.”
In a corresponding move, the Titans signed tight end MyCole Pruitt off the Houston Texans’ practice squad to fill the roster spot. Pruitt was a fifth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2015.
The Titans are losing their most productive weapon in the passing game with Walker’s injury. The 34-year-old tight end, who signed a two-year extension in training camp, had caught at least 60 passes every year since signing with Tennessee in 2013.
“It means that the next guy gets more opportunities, and that is Jonnu. That’s why you’re drafted into this league. That’s why you’re on the roster,” Vrabel said. “You wouldn’t be on this roster if we didn’t feel like you could help us in a game.”
Smith, a third-round pick last year, caught 18 passes as a rookie with the Titans in 2017 and caught one ball in Sunday’s loss to Miami after Walker went out.
“He’s a great player, but I believe I’m also a great player,” Smith said. “I have some things I have to continue to improve on. I’m my own biggest challenge, not the guy next to me. That’s just the mindset I have. It’s some big shoes to fill, because he’s a hell of a player and he’s left a hell of a mark here.
“He’s doing something right, because he’s been in the league like 50 years. But you watch him day in and day out, and he’s a professional. I’m still considered to be a young guy in this league, so I’ve been trying to be a sponge. I’ve been ready for this since I was six years old and started playing football.”