After a promising 2021 preseason that saw him tally 1.5 sacks, Tennessee Titans fourth-round pick and outside linebacker Rashad Weaver saw his rookie campaign end after just two games due to a broken fibula.
Fast forward to 2022, Weaver, who has been a full participant in practice at training camp, is not only trying to return from injury, he’s also attempting to carve out a role for himself.
Weaver wasn’t shy about admitting how difficult it was not playing because of his injury, but the Pittsburgh product is more than ready to get back out there.
“It is everything,” Weaver said of returning, per Jim Wyatt of Titans Online. “Being hurt in the NFL can get lonely. Being back around the guys, back in the locker room, having two legs I can actually walk on and do stuff and getting to do what I love … it is everything I want.”
“It’s just great to be back,” Weaver added. “Imagine [having what you love] getting taken away from you for 8 to 10 months. It was hard being away from something you love, feeling like you are missing a part of yourself. Being back out here is everything to me.”
For a player returning from injury like Weaver, there will inevitably be some rust. The second-year pro says he shook some of that off during minicamp, but the process continues in training camp.
Weaver is also focusing on improving his pad level going into Year 2, which is something outside linebackers coach Ryan Crow has said is a point of emphasis for the 24-year-old.
“The first thing anybody would say after being out that long is ‘knocking off the rust’,” Weaver said. “I just have to knock off the rust on the technique and fundamentals, and bring it back. And, pad level, that is going to continue to be my (focus) — when I have low pads, it is hard for people to block me, and I can make a lot of plays. Those are things I continue to focus on. But it comes back quick and I kind of got that rust off in OTAs, so coming into camp it was just getting back to running full speed and hitting guys a little more.”
Weaver has received praise from Crow and general manager Jon Robinson for the work he has put in and the progress he has made since entering the league and suffering the injury.
Outside linebacker Harold Landry and head coach Mike Vrabel have both taken notice.
“I think he had a great mindset, dealing with that,” Landry said of Weaver’s injury. “I am excited to see him out here every day. I feel like he has made great strides ever since he got here, and I am excited to watch him play.”
“I think what he benefited from was being around here in the offseason to get a lot of reps to get in shape. To get healthy, to study,” Vrabel said. “The one thing that I always respected about Rashad when he was with us last year, healthy, was how hard he played. There were things that weren’t perfect and there were mistakes. But he played with great effort and that’s always a great place to start. And I think what he’s done this year now is come back healthy in camp and started to try to look to define a role for himself. Working hard on special teams, I think that’s something (he) probably had improved in the offseason was his ability to help us on special teams or understand that. And for some guys coming out of college, that’s new, especially those defensive end types that transition to edge players in our league. They have to be able to play special teams.”
Weaver is currently slated to be the team’s No. 3 outside linebacker behind Landry and Bud Dupree, and he’ll clearly have a role on special teams.
However, Weaver might be auditioning for a starting job in 2023 as well, as Dupree is a potential cut candidate next offseason if he struggles in 2022.