NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Treylon Burks didn’t exactly make the best first impression as a rookie with the Tennessee Titans.
The 18th pick overall from Arkansas in the 2022 NFL draft has been busy working to ensure his second season turns out much differently, and he already can see a big difference from a year ago.
“I feel faster because I can breathe,” Burks said Tuesday.
The Titans are counting on Burks to be their top receiver this season as they seek to rebound from a 7-10 finish that snapped their three-year playoff run.
They released veteran Robert Woods, who led them in both receptions (53) and yards receiving (531) in 2022, to create salary cap space. Veteran tight end Austin Hooper, who ranked second with 41 catches, was allowed to walk in free agency.
New general manager Ran Carthon signed only one veteran free agent in Chris Moore just before the draft. He also brought back Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. With only six draft picks, Carthon selected only receiver Colton Dowell from UT Martin in the seventh round before signing some undrafted receivers.
So far, Burks is best known as the player drafted with the selection acquired in Tennessee’s trade of Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Brown to Philadelphia. Burks struggled almost immediately upon arriving in Nashville for the Titans’ rookie minicamp.
Burks couldn’t finish the first individual drill before going inside with a trainer and then to the locker room. He came back out, did a couple more reps and then went back inside. He was seen using an inhaler and acknowledged in training camp that he had to get his asthma under control in the Nashville heat.
That was the start of an injury-plagued season for Burks. He was placed on injured reserve after hurting a toe Oct. 2 at Indianapolis. He missed two more games after a hit to the head left him with a concussion in a loss at Philadelphia, though Burks held onto the ball for his lone touchdown.
Burks finished tied for third with running back Derrick Henry with 33 catches. He also tied Hooper for third with 444 yards receiving.
That’s why the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Burks has been around Titans’ headquarters this offseason. As a result, he feels better prepared mentally and physically, ready for the formations and schemes being installed by new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly.
Burks is ready to enjoy himself again.
“That’s the main thing, just having fun,” Burks said. “Not having that stress coming in as a rookie, like trying to prove this guy this, prove the coach this. Just having fun.”
With temperatures already hitting 90 degrees in Nashville, Burks also has been running outside with the Titans’ training staff. Burks said he knows how to control his asthma symptoms whenever they start, thanks Todd Toriscelli, the Titans’ vice president of sports medicine, and strength coach Frank Piraino.
“It just all goes back to me being here throughout the whole offseason and getting that under control,” Burks said.
The Titans will need Burks, tight end Chig Okonkwo — who’s also going into his second season — and anyone else who steps up. Coach Mike Vrabel promoted Kelly after firing Todd Downing, and he also hired Charles London as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Tennessee ranked 30th last season averaging a mere 171.4 yards passing per game. The Titans need someone to step up as their No. 1 receiver. Burks said his goal is simply to make plays and be where he’s supposed to be and be a great teammate.
If he does attract extra attention from defenders, Burks said what happens next will be simple.
“That’s why I’ve got teammates because if I’m doubled, then somebody else (is) wide open,” Burks said.
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