Tennessee Titans' Bud Dupree says he came back from knee injury too soon | Estes

Gentry Estes
Nashville Tennessean

Bud Dupree hasn't dealt with anything like this. With his injured knee, it's not about how bad he wants it, a matter of working more or trying harder.

It's largely a matter of waiting — still.

He’s not there yet. He’s still healing. He wishes he wasn’t, but he is.

Dupree’s recovery from last season’s ACL tear remains ongoing. He’d had some recent setbacks, causing him to be sidelined for the Tennessee Titans’ past two games after playing in the first two. It hasn't necessarily been a matter of new problems popping up as much as existing ones that never went away.

To the Titans’ new edge rusher and pricey offseason signing, it’s clear what happened.

"I rushed it,” Dupree said. “I let my pride get in the way. I should have waited a little longer. But I was so eager to get out on the field. New team, new city, new fans, just trying to make my place.”

Dupree, then with the Pittsburgh Steelers, hurt his right knee in early December. The Titans still signed him in free agency to a five-year deal reportedly worth $82.5 million, which reflected the league’s respect for Dupree as well as how desperately the Titans needed the pass-rushing help.

Understandable that Dupree arrived in Tennessee eager to live up to all of it.

Too eager, it would seem.

“You definitely put pressure on yourself,” Dupree said. “The pressure is going to make a diamond. I like to shine. So that's what we're going to do. But I've just got to make sure I'm healthy enough to make the plays I need to make for the team and play to the best of my ability."

It was his choice and his mistake, he said, but he tricked himself into thinking his knee was ready, even when he wasn’t himself on the field. There was pain, and he just wasn’t as explosive.

His best attributes involve “being big, fast and being able to change direction quickly at this size,” and “I couldn’t do it at all,” he said.

Nonetheless, Dupree played 56 snaps (70% of defensive snaps) in Week 1 against Arizona and 48 snaps (72% on defense) in Week 2 at Seattle.

Dupree said he “felt something” the week prior to facing the Colts in Week 3. While he was active for that game, it was only for an emergency. If something happened, “I could still go out there and limp around.”

That doesn’t sound good.

It just doesn't. It sounds like there’s still no timetable for Dupree's lingering knee recovery, and it's taunting everyone who’d like to know how long it’s going to take for an important Titans player to be himself again on the field, Dupree more than anyone.

He seems questionable at best for Sunday's game at the Jacksonville Jaguars (noon, CBS).

However, he quickly cautioned, don’t rule him out yet

And thus you see the back and forth — and the patience demanded by this situation. Thing is, Dupree probably could play in Jacksonville. Not as well as he’d like or at the level that he’d expect of himself. Not yet. But that didn’t stop him from going out there the first two games of the season.

“He's competitive. He's frustrated,” said defensive coordinator Shane Bowen. “That's part of it. ... But I think he's handled it like a pro. He's been engaged, understands what we're doing.”

Now Dupree is trying to be smarter "because it's a long season and I need to be on the field when it counts." 

At the same time, he knows that we all know about the value of his new Titans contract. They don't give those deals to just any player. He can be an impact player and was signed to be just that for the Titans. To do that, he's got to be on the field.

To that end, Dupree wants you to know that he’s doing everything he can. He’s showing up early, saying late, fighting it as hard as possible. Again, though, the problem is that doing more may not be the best approach with an injury like this.

Different people are going to heal from major injuries on different timetables.

Can’t force it.

“It's not a matter of how hard I work. It's about just timing,” Dupree said. “I can do as much as I want to do, and it still ain't going to help me get better. …

“That's very tough to deal with.”

Reach Gentry Estes at gestes@tennessean.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.