Why Bud Dupree's introduction was so refreshing for Tennessee Titans | Estes
The Tennessee Titans’ most important free-agent signing of 2021 was always going to make big money this offseason. Other teams were willing to give him that, too.
But coveted linebacker Bud Dupree genuinely wanted to be here.
When his agent started naming off interested franchises, once Dupree heard the Titans, “I said, ‘Man, go ahead and negotiate. Let’s get it done.’ That’s exactly where we wanted to go.”
Something to be said for that.
Especially right now. Especially with this team.
These Titans, whose offseason started with Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel each stressing the value of finding “guys that love ball, guys that want to be pro football players,” as Robinson put it. “Not guys that just put ‘pro football player’ as their hashtag on their Instagram.”
Silly that an NFL GM would even have to say that. A basic motivation to work shouldn’t be a primary concern with millionaire players. But for the Titans, it was last season.
They spent too much in 2020 on players whose desire was lacking, not necessarily their talent. Most notable was first-round draft bust Isaiah Wilson, followed closely by Vic Beasley, who barely made it to midseason with his $10 million contract. As badly as the Titans needed an edge rusher, they still felt they were better off cutting Beasley's dead weight during the season.
Jadeveon Clowney's tenure wasn’t as much of a train wreck, but he didn’t help much. His season was hindered from the start by waiting until a week before the first game to sign, thus skipping training camp and valuable conditioning and prep time with a new franchise. He was rarely the difference-maker the Titans expected on the field, and then he got hurt.
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Neither Beasley nor Clowney recording a single sack with the Titans was a laughable commentary — on the desperation of a franchise having to burn money in such a fashion, yes, but more so the duo’s indifference to the importance of what was being asked of them in Nashville. All that money didn’t make either player want to be the missing piece sorely needed by a contending team.
Dupree, if nothing else, sounds like he wants to be that guy in Nashville.
His answers in Friday’s media Zoom call couldn’t have been better scripted for this situation if they’d been written by the team’s public relations staff.
Dupree said he’s going to get ahead of the playbook soon as possible, because he doesn't want that to hold him back with the Titans, for whom he wants “to go out there and just play with my hair on fire.”
“I’m just trying to get after the quarterback as much as I can,” he said, “creating pressure, trying to get the ball out. … I’m trying to just be the best I can be myself, not only for me but for (defensive teammates). They deserve it, and I feel like the team deserves it as well.”
Cut to applause from Titans fans.
Dupree bristled at the suggestion that his individual success in Pittsburgh has had to do with a talented surrounding cast and teammates around like T.J. Watt occupying the defense’s attention.
“Just turn the tape on and see the one-on-ones. If I get a one-on-one, I win,” Dupree said. “… In the run game, no outside linebacker is playing the run like me in the league. If you turn the tape on and you see me hit a running back behind the line of scrimmage, how can you say that’s because of someone else?”
Cut to rousing applause as Titans fans begin standing.
There's more. Dupree insisted that football to him is “not looking around for somebody else to make plays but putting it upon yourself: ‘I’m always going to make the play each and every time.’ … It’s just a mindset that I have, and I feel like everyone on the field should feel the same way.”
Cut to loud cheers and a standing ovation.
OK. It is just words, but you tend to believe a player like Dupree, because his track record backs up what he's saying.
He talks about “climbing the ladder” as a player. He has done that for years now. Despite dealing with injuries, he is a much better player now than he when he was drafted by Pittsburgh. Nothing about his history or game tape suggests effort or desire will be anything but a strength for Dupree.
“Ever since (high school),” he said, “I just want to make sure that you’re one of the ones that people talk about. It’s never enough room for improvement.”
Consider that when Dupree and Clowney were each a part of the 2011 recruiting class, Clowney was considered not just the nation’s No. 1 prospect but one of the college football’s best prospects in years. Dupree was ranked No. 774 in the nation.
Which of those two would be considered the better player now?
Which did the Titans sign to a long-term contract?
If that's an indictment of Clowney, it's more a compliment for Dupree, who developed at the University of Kentucky to become a first-round pick. As an NFL player, he was so productive that the Steelers franchise-tagged him in 2020.
Had the Steelers not done that, Dupree said he wanted to join the Titans then.
Now that he has, he might not prove to be the answer to pass-rushing prayers, but he sounds like he’ll give everything he has to try to be.
That alone made Dupree a breath of fresh air.
Reach Gentry Estes at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.