Before the 2021 NFL season started, before the preseason started, before team minicamps started, from the moment Ja’Marr Chase was drafted, people were calling him a bust. I’m not some saint in this situation either. I wholeheartedly believed that the Bengals should’ve 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 small lapse of judgment during a play, there I was snickering in front of my television screen, twirling my cartoonishly evil mustache, and laughing at the inevitable downfall of an overhyped LSU receiver.
But I’ll be damned if I wasn’t blown away by his rookie season. Even someone as jaded and bitter as myself couldn’t help but watch Chase’s inaugural season in absolute wonder 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 on the potential that other players could’ve brought had they been drafted in their place, and I’ve learned that sometimes even star players can struggle adapting to the speed of the NFL early on.
Apparently, some fans haven’t though. As the new wave of rookie wideouts has rolled in, fans continue to find ways to mock them less than a week into OTAs.
Tennessee Titans’ receiver Treylon Burks couldn’t finish his first NFL practice. Burks struggled with the intensity of the practice and left the field after the first wide receiver drill. Burks did come back out later, but was promptly brought back into the trainer’s room just a short while after his reappearance. Many were quick to blame Burks’ poor debut on his lack of conditioning. Maybe, but that’s never been an issue for him in the past. Some blamed it on the heat in Nashville. Doubtful. Burks played at Arkansas. Why wasn’t this a problem back then? In reality, Burks’ issues were likely 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’s struggled with asthma myself, I can definitely speak to the feeling Burks was probably enduring in this first practice, but as is the case with many athletes nowadays, some days are worse and better than others. It’s very likely that Burks just had one of those horrendous days, and it unfortunately coincided with his first day of practice.
Do you know why I believe this to be the most likely scenario? A few reasons. One, even Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel didn’t seem too upset at the whole situation. After practice, Vrabel told reporters “I think it’s hard to think that they can recreate, with a trainer, how we do things, and we see that with guys that have come back and started with our offseason program and guys that have joined a few weeks in. It’s just different. I know that they’re working, and they think they are trying to get in shape, but that’s just not the case. That’s something we have to focus on and try to make sure we’re getting some work in, but with all of them, we’re trying to be as smart as we possibly can.”
Vrabel didn’t hold back, calling out players who have struggled in their first practices, yet at the same time, Vrabel also claims that he’s seen this happen before, and he expects Burks to bounce back now that he’s had his teeth metaphorically kicked in by the intensity of an NFL practice. That’s exactly what Burks did too!
He went through practice without any issues on Saturday. Maybe that was a fluke, but he got through his third practice just fine as well. Like I said, it was likely just a bad day for Burks, who now knows what to expect from NFL minicamp. Just like Ja’Marr Chase was, Burks will be fine, but keep sleeping on him. That way when he does turn out great, I can be the one to say “I told you so” instead of how it was last year with Chase.