By Terry McCormick
When you glance at the Tennessee Titans roster and look at the years of experience beside Rashad Weaver’s name, it shows a “2,” indicating the outside linebacker is in his second year in the NFL.
It’s factually accurate, but Weaver actually lost his rookie year almost before it began. A broken right fibula in his second professional game ended the fourth-round draft pick’s season abruptly, sending him into an arduous rehab process to be ready for this year.
“It was a lot of rehab, a long process, but I feel like myself,” he says. “But they had a plan for me, and I’ve followed it. It’s going smooth, and I’ve been out here every day rehabbing the best I can.”
When asked to describe what his life was like without football for most of last season, Weaver doesn’t hold back.
“What do you love most? Imagine that getting taken away from you for eight to 10 months, and you’re not really even in the building. You’re just kind of chilling at home,” Weaver says. “That’s probably the hardest part, just being away from something you love.
“This is a business where if you’re not playing, you’re not in the building very much,” he continues. “You have your outside life. You’re not around besides rehab. The hardest part was not being around something I loved. You feel like you’re missing a part of yourself.”
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel likes what he’s seeing from the former University of Pittsburgh standout.
“I think you watched, we’d work on some things in practice, and then he’d get to the games and really just show up and be productive and get noticed. And I think that probably is trending in the same direction,” Vrabel says.
“But I would say that he’s improved. He’s an improved player and he’s trying to not only grasp the defense and getting better there, but also on special teams because he knows how important that is for those guys that aren’t starters at outside linebacker or any position really to be proficient in special teams.”
For Weaver, the 2022 training camp and preseason has presented conflicting sensations. Mentally, he’s a second-year player in the defensive system and feels much more comfortable with his assignments and the terminology. But after losing nearly a complete season on the field, he still feels a bit like a rookie in terms of the physical part of the game and actually playing.
“Knowing the plays now is easy,” he says. “You don’t have to think about it, especially like last year thinking about it. You’re like, ‘Am I doing the right thing on this play?’ With the plays and knowing what to do, it’s almost like second nature now, like the back of my hand.
“But it’s like being a rookie in terms of reps and game reps and getting out there on the field and earning my spot and these guys’ trust in the games.
“It’s easy to trust someone in practice, but when the bullets are firing and you’re competing against another team, that’s when the real trust happens. … I’m a rookie in those terms,” he adds.
One thing the Titans won’t have to worry about from Weaver, who figures to be the Titans top backup at outside linebacker behind Bud Dupree and Harold Landry, is his effort.
“The one thing that I always respected about Rashad when he was with us last year, healthy, was how hard he played,” Vrabel says. “There were things that weren’t perfect and there were mistakes. But he played with great effort and that’s always a great place to start.
“And I think what he’s done this year now is come back healthy in camp and started to try to define a role for himself. Working hard on special teams, I think that’s something (he) probably had improved in the offseason was his ability to help us on special teams or understand that.”
For Weaver’s part, he is eager to earn whatever comes his way, and doesn’t plan to take any time off in camp, despite being a player coming off a serious injury.
“It’s full go and everything,” he says. “I’m feeling great. Even before I was injured, I prided myself on being at every practice and working to get better. I don’t even have any idea of deserving a practice off. That’s something you earn as you get older and more solid in your techniques and fundamentals.”