Jeffery Simmons has largely toiled in the shadows since the Titans picked him in the first round, becoming a game-breaking defensive lineman who is all too often overlooked.
What was not overlooked this off-season was Simmons’ lack of participation despite attending practice. Entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, many have been questioning whether Simmons’ approach to the off-season 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’s handling my contract situations and my future and stuff. I’m focused on training and ready for the season. I have a plan. I’ve talked to coach Vrabs (Mike Vrabel) and Todd (Toriscelli) and I’m not available to practice if anyone asks, but I’ve made a plan with them to focus on how much can I improve, not just doing exercises now, but in the movie room, in the gym, something like that.
“My focus is not on my contract. That’s why I have a team around me. They can focus on all the contract negotiations and whatever may be, if there are contract discussions.”
Vrabel has said Simmons is healthy, so it’s fair to question Simmons’ idiosyncratic offseason plan. It’s not that Simmons necessarily needs the training sessions to improve – he earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2021 – but it’s quite unusual for a player to attend off-season activities, anyway sit outside the field.
Vrabel didn’t offer much more on the matter, telling reporters that off-season Simmons is simply following a roadmap worked out in conjunction with the team.
“No. Just do exactly what we ask him to do, just like everyone else,” Vrabel said when asked if Simmons was sitting outside to stay fresh for training camp. “Everyone has a different plan and that’s where we are now.”
Vrabel also firmly opposed the idea of any of his players being able to determine their own availability during the off-season, saying: “I get to decide who practices and who doesn’t.”
It is certainly within Vrabel’s right to make such decisions, but the lack of explanation raises suspicions about Simmons. Despite the lack of focus and glamor for most non-Aaron Donald defensive tackles, Simmons has made quite a contribution in recent seasons by playing a vital role in the Tennessee defense as one of three defenders with eight or more sacks. He does not have to prove much more, but when entering into a contract year, stability and security in the long term are not exactly guaranteed.
Self-preservation may be the best approach for Simmons entering such an important season. Maybe it’s more about that than the money, although both are related. Either way, the only consternation on the matter is with those who watch the practices, not those who participate in them.