On Sunday, when the Tennessee Titans travel to Buffalo, safety Kendrick Lewis will be among the starters.
With Kenny Vaccaro out, Lewis will officially make his first NFL start since the finale of the 2015 season when he was with the Baltimore Ravens.
He played in six games in 2016 before landing on injured reserve, and was out of football altogether last year before the Titans signed him in the off-season. Lewis earned a reserve role with Tennessee in camp, but suffered a foot injury that shelved him until last week. He returned and saw action on special teams until Vaccaro dislocated his elbow in the second quarter, putting Lewis back in game action full-time.
“It felt good to just be out there. I felt like I could do more. There were some things I could do better,” Lewis said. “That’s what this week is about. We got the win and that was the most important thing.”
Now, he is expected to start for at least the next couple of weeks and likely through the Titans trip to London and up until the bye. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who coached Lewis in Baltimore as well, is confident that the veteran is up to the task.
“The thing with Kendrick is that I’ve got some experience with him. He was with me at Baltimore. The thing of it is he’s a great pro,” Pees said. “Even when he was out (with the foot injury in camp), he was in there every day, he’s studying. He knows what to do. He puts himself in the best position to make plays. I have total confidence in him. For a couple of years (in Baltimore), he was our starting safety. I have no reservations about putting him in there.”
For Lewis, he isn’t about to take this opportunity for granted after being on the outside looking in last year.
“I appreciate it every time. From the first time I stepped into this building, I thank God for allowing me to be back out here,” Lewis said. “I never take it for granted.”
As for what he did last season with no football to play and no teams calling. Well, he trained and watched football as if he was still playing and readying for his next opportunity.
“I watched football. Sometimes I trained on Sunday, but I prepared myself as if I was going to play,” he said. “It wasn’t too hard to watch, because I wanted to stay locked in. It was hard (being unemployed). It was frustrating at times, but my family and friends were encouraging to me. I always had faith in myself and faith in God. This is where He led me. He led me to this moment right here.”
Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who was Lewis’ teammate as a player in Kansas City, liked what he saw of Lewis before he got injured.
“I think he’s practiced well and he’s really proved to us in the amount of time he was in training camp that he was able to execute in our defense. He was having a good camp and then he got injured and hurt his foot,” Vrabel said. “Now he’s working his way back in. I have full confidence he’ll be able to communicate with those guys back there.”
Injuries: Linebacker Wesley Woodyard was out for the second straight day with a shoulder injury. Safety Kenny Vaccaro remains out with a dislocated elbow. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was cleared from the concussion protocol. Tackle Dennis Kelly was back at practice for the first time since his mysterious illness.