Rishard Matthews’ abrupt departure from the Tennessee Titans came as a shock when the news went down Wednesday night that he had requested his release from the club.
But according to sources with knowledge of the situation, Matthews’ actions might not have been all that unbelievable for those inside the walls at Saint Thomas Sports Park. Sources indicate that Matthews’ personality was not a great fit with the Titans, and he was described as not always popular with his teammates and “a loner.”
Matthews, 28, was upset about his lack of playing time and targets through three weeks this season. Last week he told TitanInsider when asked about his playing time, replied, “Not enough, in my opinion.”
On Wednesday, he missed practice for what was described by head coach Mike Vrabel as "personal reasons," and later that evening, Matthews had asked the Titans for his release.
In his first two seasons in Tennessee since signing as a free agent from the Miami Dolphins, Matthews was among the Titans’ most productive players in the passing game, catching 118 passes combined in 2016-17 with 13 touchdown receptions.
Despite that success, however, there were numerous times that Matthews, according to sources, was not completely happy with his situation with the Titans behind the scenes, even when he was a regular part of the offense.
Terms like “a little weird” and “difficult” were used to describe Matthews’ personality.
In an unusual turn of events this summer, Matthews, still on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury, proceeded to negotiate by himself a one-year extension with no signing bonus for the 2019 season. Matthews had fired his agent before negotiating the deal alone.
Matthews, by virtue of being on the Titans roster at the start of the season, is guaranteed his $5 million base salary for 2018. But the Titans could also throw him a curveball by placing him on the Reserve/Left Squad list, which would prevent any team from signing him for the balance of the current season and would void his salary. That is the move the Buffalo Bills made with cornerback Vontae Davis, who deserted the team at halftime of their loss to the Chargers two weeks ago.
The one thing that Matthews was not afraid to do in his time with the Titans was to speak his mind. Last season, he went on the record calling then-offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie’s play-calling and scheme “predictable.”
Also, he was the only Titans player last season, who decided to stay inside the locker room during the national anthem, a move that was unpopular with some fans and may have irritated some teammates as well. At one point last year, Matthews tweeted, then deleted, a remark that he would retire rather than be forced to stand for the anthem.
On the field, Matthews’ role had diminished greatly since his return from the PUP list, as he was targeted only three times. Even with tight end Delanie Walker’s season-ending ankle injury, Matthews’ playing time and his role in the offense did not substantially increase, but stayed the same at around 30 or so snaps per game.
Still, his timing obviously caught the Titans off guard, coming in the middle of the season and the team coming off two divisional wins that have worked to further bond and boost the confidence in the locker room.