Britt rejoins Titans after rehabilitation and suspension, but will it be worth the wait?

Monday, September 10, 2012 at 11:27pm

Kendall Wright has not seen Kenny Britt play football. Not firsthand, anyway.

Dave Ragone, on the other hand, has not seen many who play the game like Britt.

“We were in Houston [last season], and I told my former teammate, Andre Johnson [a five-time Pro Bowler], that’s the closest thing I’ve seen to him,” Ragone, the Tennessee Titans wide receivers coach said. “That big. That fast. Eats up space like that. Attacks the football. When he’s clicking on all cylinders, he’s very difficult to stop.”

Since the Titans took him in the first round of the 2009 draft, Britt, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound wide receiver, has shown just what he can do. Prosperity for him, though, always has been short-lived.

As he comes off a one-week league suspension for a player conduct violation, the question is: What can Britt do for the Titans this season?

After all, he enters this, his fourth NFL season after much delay and in the wake of significant tumult. His return from reconstructive knee surgery included two minor procedures — one on each knee — that kept him on the physically-unable-to-perform list and out of workouts for all of training camp. Plus, there was the offseason arrest and drunk driving charge that led to a one-week suspension, which lasted through Sunday’s season-opener against New England.

“He’s a beast, really,” Wright, Tennessee’s first-round choice this year, said. “He’ll be one of the best, if not the best player on the offense when he’s healthy. … But it’s going to take time. He’s coming off the knee injury, but he’s been working on it. He’s going to be just fine.

“I’ve never seen him play. The only time I’ve seen him is on film, and I like him. … He’s so big, fast and physical. And he has great hands.”

Wright’s theory, of course, is largely speculation. The two account for half of the franchise’s all-time first-round picks used on wide receivers, but they have never been on the field together for a game.

Yet there is ample evidence to support his case.

There was Britt’s game-winning touchdown catch as time expired against Arizona his rookie season. There were the 225 yards and three touchdowns against Philadelphia in 2010 and the consecutive games of 135 and 136 receiving yards — with three touchdowns — to start 2011.

Of course, Britt followed his seven-catch, 128-yard performance against the Cardinals with just nine receptions and one touchdown over the remaining five games of that season. A hamstring injury sidelined him for the first five games after he torched the Eagles. Then came the season-ending knee injury in Week 3 last year.

Now he’s effectively starting over once again. Questions about his durability and his character inevitably will linger as will the sense of just what might be possible.

“You’d rather have players here, and you’d rather not have him be going through this,” coach Mike Munchak said. “The whole thing is frustrating and disappointing that we even have this situation. Having said that, the fact that I think he’s excited about where he’s at physically, I think his confidence has grown quite a bit. … He’ll have a chance to get on the field and play in San Diego [on Sunday].

“Hopefully, once he gets this behind him and realizes why this happened and can’t happen again, now the football season is right in front of him.”

As far as his teammates and coaches are concerned, all his issues are behind him. At least for now.

“Obviously, what you see is he’s back, and guys will get reacquainted with him,” Ragone said. “That happens in the locker room, maybe. In the meeting room it’s all business. I don’t think there will be much of an adjustment period. …

“The quarterbacks have to get used to him again. It’s been almost a year since he’s run routes for them. But a guy that big, that physical, it doesn’t take long for a quarterback to get used to him.”

 

 

 

Previous suspensions have not stopped Titans players from having productive seasons

Kenny Britt is hardly the first Tennessee Titans player benched by the league office at the start of a season for disciplinary reasons.

While concerns about the fourth-year wide receiver’s consistency are legitimate, there is nothing in the local franchise’s experience to suggest that he cannot be productive once he returns to the organization and resumes all professional activities.

Here’s a look at some other players who have served suspensions and how they performed once they were allowed to play:

 

Ahmard Hall, fullback, 2011

Suspension: First four games

Reason: Violation of the performance enhancing drugs policy.

He reclaimed his position from Quinn Johnson as soon as he rejoined the team. While Chris Johnson struggled in the wake of his offseason holdout, Hall chipped in a career-high 24 rushing yards (on six carries), which included a 12-yard run — longest of his career — at Buffalo.

 

Gerald McRath, linebacker, 2010

Suspension: First four games

Reason: Violation of the performance enhancing drugs policy.

A starter in the final three games as a rookie in 2009, McRath played the final 12 contests of 2010, with seven starts. He finished the season with 60 tackles, one-and-a-half sacks and three tackles for losses, all of which still are career highs. He made 10 tackles in two of his starts.

 

Denard Walker, cornerback 2000

Suspension: First game

Reason: Violation of the personal conduct policy.

He immediately was reinserted into the starting lineup in Week 2 and finished the season with two interceptions — the third time in four years he had that many. He also forced one fumble for the first time in his career.

 

Josh Evans, defensive tackle, 1999

Suspension: First four games

Reason: Violation of the performance enhancing drugs policy.

In his first game back, he tied for the team lead in tackles and eventually matched his career highs with 54 tackles and three-and-a-half sacks. He became a dominant player in the postseason and was a key contributor to the Titans’ run to Super Bowl XXXIV.