‘I’m here to play football’

Jeffery Simmons has largely canvassed in the shadows since the Titans spent a first-round pick on him, blossoming into a game-wrecking defensive lineman who too often goes overlooked.

What wasn’t overlooked this offseason was Simmons’ lack of participation despite attending practice. Entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, many have fairly wondered if Simmons’ approach to the offseason was related to his contract situation.

Simmons flatly denied this Wednesday.

“I’m here to play football,” Simmons said, via TitanInsider.com. “I’ve got a team around me that handles my contract situations and my future and all that. I’m focused on training and getting ready for the season. I’m on a plan. I’ve been talking to Coach Vrabs ( Mike Vrabel) and Todd (Toriscelli) and everyone. I’m unavailable to practice, if anyone asks that, but I’ve been on a plan with them to focus on how much can I improve, not just doing drills right now, but in the film room, in the weight room, anything like that.

“My focus is not on my contract. That’s why I’ve got a team around me. They can focus on all the contract talk and whatever may be, if there is contract talks.”

Vrabel has said Simmons is healthy, so it’s fair to question Simmons’ peculiar offseason plan. It’s not as if Simmons necessarily needs the practices to improve — he earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2021 — but it is fairly unusual for a player to attend offseason activities, yet sit out of on-field work.

Vrabel didn’t offer much more on the matter, telling reporters Simmons’ offseason is just following a roadmap set in conjunction with the team.

“No. Just doing exactly what we ask him to do like everybody else,” Vrabel said when asked if Simmons was sitting out to remain fresh for training camp. “Everybody’s got a different plan and that’s where we’re at right now.”

Vrabel firmly also resisted the notion any of his players can determine their own availability during the offseason, stating, “I get to decide who practices and who doesn’t.”

It’s certainly within Vrabel’s right to make such decisions, but the lack of explanation raises suspicion regarding Simmons. Despite the lack of attention and glamor for most any defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald, Simmons has become quite a contributor in recent seasons, playing a pivotal role in Tennessee’s defense as one of three defenders with eight or more sacks. He doesn’t need to prove much else, but entering a contract year, stability and long-term security aren’t exactly guaranteed.

Self-preservation might be the best approach for Simmons entering such an important season. Perhaps it’s more about that than the money, although both are related. Regardless, the only consternation regarding the matter exists from those viewing the practices, not the ones participating.

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