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AP photo by Terrance Williams / Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season, the third in the NFL for the former first-round draft pick out of Mississippi State.

NASHVILLE — Jeffery Simmons showed off some of the slippery moves he uses to dodge offensive linemen when chasing opposing quarterbacks.

Yes, he wants to be a leader and play his best for the Tennessee Titans.

No, he wasn't on the field for either of the mandatory minicamp practices Tuesday or Wednesday, simply billed as "unavailable" by coach Mike Vrabel. Simmons and Vrabel both said the 24-year-old defensive lineman was following the Titans' plan for someone coming off the best season of his young career.

And the 19th pick of the 2019 draft is leaving contract talks — if any happen — to his personal team that includes his uncle Jason Hatcher, who played 10 years in the NFL.

"My focus is not on my contract," Simmons told reporters Wednesday. "That's why I've got a team around me ... they can focus on all the contract talk and whatever it may be. If it is contract talks. So like I said, my focus is on football right now."

Simmons, who does not currently have an agent, remains under contract for two more seasons after the Titans picked up their fifth-year option for 2023. Simmons is scheduled to make $2.2 million this season and $10.7 million in 2023.

Last season, he earned his first Pro Bowl nod and was a second-team selection for the All-Pro lineup. Only Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams and Cam Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers received more votes than Simmons among interior defensive linemen in All-Pro balloting, with Simmons tying the Kansas City Chiefs' Chris Jones with 10 apiece.

Simmons started all 17 games at tackle last season and led Tennessee with 58 quarterback pressures. He ranked second with 12 tackles for loss and third with a career-high 8 1/2 sacks. He either led or tied for the team lead for sacks in five different games, and he had a team-high three sacks in the top-seeded Titans' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.

Donald got his contract reworked earlier this month for a hefty raise in a deal guaranteeing $65 million in the next two seasons. Asked if he can follow Donald as the NFL's next top defensive lineman, Simmons made clear he plays football his own way.

"The way he plays the game and disrupts the game is different than everyone else," Simmons said. "So I would say I consider myself a different player than Aaron Donald, of course. And so, like I said, my job is to be the best version of Jeffery Simmons for the Tennessee Titans."

The team wrapped up the on-field portion of minicamp Wednesday, using only two of the three possible days. Players are scheduled to report back July 26 for the start of training camp.

The Titans have a history of signing players to new contracts around the start of camp, including safety Kevin Byard, running back Derrick Henry and left tackle Taylor Lewan.

However, Tennessee traded wide receiver A.J. Brown, their second pick in the 2019 draft, to the Philadelphia Eagles during the first round of this year's draft in April. Lack of agreement over an extension led to the trade, with Brown's agent asking for tens of millions more in guaranteed money than the Titans originally offered.

Simmons noted he's still in Nashville.

"I'll see you guys in camp," he said.

 

Henry healthy

A broken right foot cost Henry nine games during the back half of the 2021 regular season, although the two-time NFL rushing leader returned for the Titans' playoff loss and ran 20 times for 62 yards and one touchdown.

On Tuesday, the man who ran for 2,027 yards in 2020 — and was leading the NFL in rushing again last October before being sidelined — patiently tried his best to make clear his foot is not an issue.

"Yeah, I feel good. For real," said Henry, who had not talked to reporters since the loss to the Bengals.

The Titans averaged 141.4 rushing yards even without Henry out for half of the season, but the 6-foot-3, 247-pounder is the man who makes Tennessee's offense work at its best. With Henry sidelined, the Titans finished 15th in the NFL in scoring at 24.6 points a game — a big drop from 2020, when they ranked fourth with 30.7.

This was the third straight year Henry spent the voluntary portion of the NFL's offseason program working out on his own after enjoying that approach in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. He works out two or three times a day, taking off some Sundays to take his daughter out or when traveling.

"I just felt like if it ain't broke, don't fix it," Henry said. "And I'll continue to do those things. I'll communicate with the coaches, and they knew what was going on and I talk to them every now and then, so that was good."

Henry said he has been working with a physical therapist on a lot of footwork. He has also been running hills, which has been documented with videos on social media, and doing all the things to make sure he's ready when the Titans report for training camp.

"The doubters, whatever they want to be, I'm definitely motivated," Henry said. "I'm ready to go. So we're going to see."

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