Before the 2021 NFL season started, before the preseason started, before team mini camps started, ever since Ja’Marr Chase was drafted, people called him a failure. I’m no saint in this situation either. I honestly believed that the Bengals should have selected Penei Sewell with the fifth overall pick. When they didn’t, I became bitter and swore to always slander Chase with every fiber of my being. With every drop in the preseason, every little misjudgment during a play, I sat there grinning in front of my television screen, twirling my cartoonish evil mustache and laughing at the inevitable demise of an overhyped LSU receiver.
But I’d be damned if I wasn’t blown away by his rookie season. Even someone as jaded and bitter as I was couldn’t help but watch Chase’s inaugural season in absolute amazement as he broke record after record, helped lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl and melted my cold heart. I like to think I’ve become a better football fan since then. I’ve learned not to judge players by the potential other players could have brought had they been drafted in their place, and I’ve learned that even star players sometimes struggle to adjust to the pace of the NFL in the beginning.
Apparently some fans don’t have that though. As the new wave of rookie wideouts rolls in, fans continue to find ways to mock them in OTAs for less than a week.
Tennessee Titans’ recipient Treylon Burks couldn’t finish his first NFL workout† Burks struggled with the intensity of the drill and left the field after the first wide receiver drill. Burks did come out later, but was promptly returned to the trainer’s room shortly after his return. Many were quick to blame Burks’ poor debut on his lack of conditioning. Maybe, but that has never been a problem for him in the past. Some blamed the heat in Nashville. Doubtful. Burks played in Arkansas. Why was that not a problem then? In reality, Burks’ problems were probably linked to his asthma. After all, he spent most of his first stint in the trainers room on an inhaler, according to reports†
As a former athlete who struggled with asthma myself, I can certainly speak of the feeling Burks probably had during this first workout, but as is the case with many athletes these days, some days are worse and better than others. It’s very likely that Burks just had one of those horrific days, and it sadly coincided with his first day of practice.
You know why I think this is the most likely scenario? A few reasons. One, even Titans head coach Mike Vrabel didn’t seem too upset about the whole situation. After practice, Vrabel told reporters: “I think it’s hard to imagine that, with a coach, they can mimic how we do things, and we see that with guys who have come back and started our offseason program and guys who joined a couple.” weeks into. It’s just different. I know they’re working, and they think they’re trying to get in shape, but that’s just not the case. That’s something we need to focus on and try to make sure we get some work done, but with all of them we’re trying to be as smart as possible. †
Vrabel didn’t hold back, calling out players who struggled in their first workouts, but at the same time, Vrabel also claims he’s seen this happen before, and he expects Burks to bounce back now that his teeth have been metaphorically kicked in by the intensity of a NFL exercise. That’s exactly what Burks did!
He went through the practice without any problems on Saturday. Maybe that was a fluke, but he also got through his third practice just fine. Like I said, it was probably just a bad day for Burks, who now knows what to expect from the NFL mini camp. Just like Ja’Marr was Chase, Burks will be fine, but keep sleeping on him. That way I can be the one to say “I told you so” instead of what it was like with Chase last year.