31 NFL teams (the Los Angeles Rams start next Tuesday) took to the practice fields yesterday for the first Organized Team Activities (OTAs) of the 2016-17 NFL season.
For the Tennessee Titans, any positives from the first organized off-season workout were overshadowed by a season-ending injury to offensive lineman Byron Bell, a 16-game starter in last year’s campaign.
“Players ran off the field screaming, some sick to their stomachs, calling for help and dropping to their knees to pray.” – Jason Wolf, The Tennessean
According to Tennessee’s offical website, Bell was diagnosed with a dislocated ankle. Teammates took to social media to lament the loss of the six-year veteran out of Greenville, TX:
Praying for Big Bell. Hell of a guy and worker. Excited to be apart of his road to recovery/success!
— DeMarco Murray (@DeMarcoMurray) May 24, 2016
Besides the obvious devastation to Bell, personally, the injury hinders Tennessee at a position group that they cannot afford to lose any depth.
Bell, praised widely for his versatility as an offensive lineman, was projected to start again this year at guard. While the Titans drafted accordingly this year to reinforce the offensive line ranks, the injury may force a rookie or second-year player into a role for which they may be unprepared. Now the burden of protecting sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota falls upon Quinton Spain, Jeremiah Poutasi or rookie sixth-round draft pick Sebastian Tretola to fill in along the interior of the line.
“The loss is greater than you think because he [Bell] can play inside and outside on both sides,” head coach Mike Mularkey told the media after practice. “He was coming in here to compete for a job. There was no question about that when he came in the building.”
Ten deep breaths, Titans fans. It’s only Day One.
Information from NFL.com, The Tennessean and TitansOnline.com contributed to this report.