Justin Hunter knows time is running out for him to make a needed impression on the Tennessee Titans.
Hunter, a second-round pick in 2013 that the Titans traded up to obtain, is coming off his second straight injury-plagued season, and now entering the final year of his rookie contract finds himself needing to play well in camp and preseason to secure his role in the rotation or maybe even his roster spot.
“It’s one shot. Just like when people come in and tryout, they’ve got one shot and they’re going to make the best of it and make that team,” the former University of Tennessee standout said, describing his situation entering 2016.
Injuries have been part of the problem. A lacerated spleen ended Hunter’s 2014 season four games shy of completion, and last year a leg injury put him on the shelf after nine games. In his three seasons with the Titans, Hunter has had 18, 28 and 22 receptions, while only occasionally flashing the big-play potential that was predicted for him when drafted. He admits it has been frustrating at times.
“I just feel like it’s been a struggle, getting hurt and what not and not doing the things that I know I can do. I’ve got to change it around and do something different,” Hunter said. “I’m doing everything I can when I can, because it’s my last shot.”
Part of what Hunter has done to try and change his fortunes is to change his body style. He has added six pounds and is now at 209 and looks decidedly more muscular both in his arms and legs. The re-sculpting of his body comes from going to the Bay Area and running hills as part of his training regimen this off-season.
“I was at 203 (last year) and I’m at 209 now,” Hunter said. “Doing all the running, I kept the weight on and that’s my official weight now, I feel like. I just started eating right and lifting a lot more. I started training in San Francisco, running stairs and hills and that built up my legs a little bit more. And basically just eating right.”
Hunter, who can become a free agent at season’s end, is hoping the changes will pay off as he tries to secure a regular role in a crowded wide receiver room that also includes Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham, free agent pickup Rishard Matthews, veteran Harry Douglas and fifth-round pick Tajae Sharpe.