Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans coach Mike Vrabel held a press conference on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, one day after the team’s 27-20 loss to the Dolphins.
Here’s a look at some of the hot topics as the team begins to turn its attention to Sunday’s opponent, the Houston Texans:
Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan remains in the concussion protocol after absorbing a big hit on a crackback block in Sunday’s game.
“Taylor is resting, and he is obviously in the protocol,” Vrabel said. “We’ll be respectful to that process and make sure everything is followed and he will not be out here, he will not do anything until he is ready. I take that very seriously. … That has been given to Taylor by me — that he will not do anything until he is ready.”
Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch leveled Lewan with crackback block in front of the Tennessee bench on Sunday. Two Dolphins were penalized in the ensuing fracas, along with Titans running back Dion Lewis. Lewan headed to the locker room and never returned to the game after the hit.
Vrabel was asked about the hit on Lewan.
“This game is a vicious game, and it’s played by different types of people, they are not normal people,” Vrabel said. “They are professional football players. Do I think it was dirty? Probably not. Do I think it was targeted at Taylor? I would say absolutely.”
The Titans placed tight end Delanie Walker on Injured Reserve on Monday with what Vrabel called a leg injury.
Vrabel said Walker is expected to undergo surgery in the coming days.
“Disappointing because he puts a lot into it, and he plays hard,” Vrabel said of Walker. “He’s been a productive player for us, and somebody that I was excited to coach and be with. We’ll see where he is at after surgery and reevaluate his potential return.”
The Titans signed tight end McCole Pruitt off of Houston’s practice squad, and he’ll join tight ends Jonnu Smith, Luke Stocker and Anthony Firkser at the position.
Vrabel said he was impressed with Pruitt after spending time with him a year ago in Houston, when he was defensive coordinator with the Texans.
“We’ll get him ready to go … and get him ready to go and see if we can use him,” Vrabel said. “(We’re) excited to get him.”
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is still being evaluated by the team’s medical staff, but Vrabel sounded optimistic about his condition on Monday.
Mariota didn’t finish Sunday’s season opener against the Dolphins after being injured in the third quarter.
“We are hopeful that we’ll get a good report back on his arm, so we can move forward with having him as our quarterback,” Vrabel said. “It is important that we have everybody that is healthy and available for these games.”
Mariota was injured after taking a hit by Dolphins defensive lineman William Hayes, a former Titan. Mariota had just handed the ball off to running back Derrick Henry, and he didn’t have the ball when he was hit.
After initially trying to come back and play, Mariota was eventually replaced for good by quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Vrabel said the Titans have discussed the possibility of adding a third quarterback to the roster, but no decision has been made. The Titans currently have quarterback Logan Woodside on the team’s practice squad.
“I think that is what Jon (Robinson) and I are looking at,” Vrabel said. “Right now … things are looking OK, but if that situation arises, we’d have to have that conversation about getting another guy in there.”
Mariota finished the contest 9-of-16 for 103 yards, with a 36.2 passer rating and the two interceptions. Gabbert was 11-of-22 for 117 yards, and he guided a second half drive.
Mariota was intercepted on consecutive throws after returning from the injury, and the Titans made the decision to go with Gabbert the rest of the way in the eventual 27-20 defeat.
Mariota said he wasn’t going to make many excuses about the injury, and the throws that followed the injury, which Vrabel described on Sunday as an elbow/shoulder injury after taking a hit.
On Monday, Vrabel reiterated he asked referee Jerome Boger about the hit, and was told it was legal since he was executing a fake.
“Again, I asked him: I said, ‘Are we going low?,’” Vrabel said on Monday. “And Jerome was like, ‘Yeah, if he is carrying out a fake.’ As long as that is the rule, we just have to do business as business is being done. For every quarterback that is carrying out a fake, we’ll have to do it the same way.
“That’s what I told (defensive coordinator) Dean (Pees). I said, ‘Dean, if that is legal, we have to do it the same exact way. We have to do business as business is being done.’”
Vrabel said the Titans and Mariota can do things moving forward to protect Mariota.
“Marcus knows ways to protect himself,” Vrabel said. “Clearly, letting the defender know and the official know that you don’t have the ball. … I think those things happen, unfortunately. You are always looking for ways to take care of players, but sometimes these things are unavoidable.”
Vrabel was peppered with questions about the officiating, beginning with whether receiver Tajae Sharpe touched down Dolphins safety Reshad Jones after his first interception, which he turned into a long run. Replays appeared to show Sharpe making contact with Jones.
Vrabel was also asked about Walker’s facemask being grabbed on a play he was whistled for holding, which negated a long touchdown run by running back Derrick Henry.
The hit on Lewan and the hit on Mariota were also among the questions he tackled on Monday. Cornerback Malcolm Butler was also flagged for a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty. It was brought up as well.
Vrabel wasn’t interested in blaming the officials.
“The penalties didn’t cost us the game,” Vrabel said. “Guys, I am done talking about the penalties.”
Linebackers Kamalei Correa and Brian Orakpo led Titans edge rushers with 48 snaps each.
Correa had a sack in the contest.
Derrick Morgan played just 14 snaps for the Titans as he began to work his way back from a knee injury.
Vrabel said he saw some good things from a pass rush perspective, and reminded the play of the secondary makes a big difference overall.
Vrabel said Correa “played hard.” He said he didn’t see any setbacks for Morgan, who is being evaluated.
A wild scene followed the hit on Lewan, and players from both teams were in on the melee.
“We can’t come off the sideline. We have to stop doing that — that can’t happen,” Vrabel said. “I want us to play as hard and as physical and as aggressive as we can from the time the ball was snapped until the whistle.”