Kenny Britt's future as a Tennessee Titan is hanging in the balance for 2013.
Ever since the Titans selected Britt in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, he has teased and tantalized them with flashes of game-breaking ability.
The problem is, injuries and off-field problems have derailed Britt at nearly every turn. When he was just about to hit his stride in 2011, a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee ruined that season just three games in. Britt had 17 catches in just two-and-a-half games before he was injured.
Britt came back last year, but clearly wasn't the the same player, despite posting a career-high 42 catches in 2012.
Now, as Britt enters the final year of his rookie contract, the question is, can he convince the Titans he can stay healthy, produce and stay out of trouble enough to warrant consideration to be in their plans beyond this year. It was telling that the Titans traded up to draft Justin Hunter in the second round in the April draft.
Britt knows he is on the spot.
“Every year is important to me, but this year it's important for me to come out and stay healthy,” Britt said. “I feel good. I feel like I'm in the best shape I've ever been in, so I'm excited about this year. I'm not going to worry about the contract, because that's for later. I'm just more worried about me staying healthy.”
Teammates have spoken about how good Britt looks as OTAs are under way this week for the Titans.
“I think Kenny is doing a good job. He's still coming back a little bit, but he's playing really hard. He's explosive. He looks great, is in great shape and we expect him to continue to progress and be that kind of special player that he is,” quarterback Jake Locker said of Britt.
Britt actually had procedures on both knees last year (in addition to ACL surgery in 2011), and ironically, his biggest issue is with his left knee, where he underwent a scope in 2012 due to a torn meniscus. There is still occasional flare-ups of swelling there.
Last year, Britt knew he was a step slow from before he suffered the ACL injury.
“Last year, seeing the ball come out of the quarterback's hand, it was coming out a little bit faster, and I was coming out of my break a little bit slower,” he said.
Britt is happy to be available at the beginning of the off-season work, and said it will make a difference for him this year.
“Last year, about this time, I was working on my ACL,” Britt said. “It feels good, because I'm here from the beginning. I'm not jumping in at the end of camp or at the beginning of the season.”
Britt, who has had his share of off-field issues, including a one-game suspension last year from Commissioner Roger Goodell, vows that he has learned and matured. He has said the right things before. Now, he could be down to his final chance to prove it to the Titans.
“I'm gonna be the receiver I was two years ago, and I'm probably gonna be even better than that because I've focused more on football than I ever have in my life the last few months. I'm excited to see what I can do this year,” Britt said. “They're counting on me to be on the field and to do the right things on the field and off the field. They expect me the be the pro athlete I should be and I'm gonna be.”