Julio Jones cleared to practice after lengthy absence from Titans lineup

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Julio Jones (2) stretches a during training camp practice Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (Mark Zaleski/AP)
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Tennessee Titans wide receiver Julio Jones (2) stretches a during training camp practice Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (Mark Zaleski/AP)

Credit: AP

Nagging hamstring injury has limited former Falcons receiver to just six games this season

Proof the Tennessee Titans are healthier now than before their bye came in a roster announcement Monday. Seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones and two others can start practicing with the team, a big step toward rejoining the active roster.

Jones last played in week nine, when he caught 4 passes for 35 yards against the Los Angeles Rams. Before that, he missed three games between week four and week eight.

Getting Jones back to full strength could be a big boost for the Titans (8-4), who currently sit atop the AFC South and returned to work Monday up a spot to No. 2 in the AFC with five games remaining. Barring a setback, Jones could conceivably be back on the active roster as early as Sunday for the team’s week 14 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Those guys have been working extremely hard to get back, which is what we ask everybody that isn’t participating,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “And, I felt like the training staff, the weight staff, everybody involved, those particular players worked extremely hard. I think it’s beneficial.”

Vrabel said the Titans use technology to help track players and how fast they’re able to run to gauge when someone is ready to start practicing again. Vrabel said it’s helpful to both the team and the players involved to see exactly how fast they ran during games before being injured.

“We can track that and monitor that and show them as they get closer,” Vrabel said. “So that, one, we’re all on the same page and they, two, have a lot of confidence to come back.”

The Titans also designated rookie wide receiver Racey McMath and safety Dane Cruikshank to return to practice.

Getting Jones back would be a big boost for an offense that went into the bye scoring just 13 points apiece in a two-game skid. A hamstring issue has limited Jones, 32, to six games this season. But Jones has 21 catches for 336 yards and would be a big boost with 2020 Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Brown also on injured reserve.

The Titans played only four receivers in their last game before the bye, a 36-13 loss to the Patriots. Nick Westbrooke-Ikhine, Chester Rogers, rookie Dez Fitzpatrick and Cody Hollister combined for six catches on 14 passes.

Derrick Henry, the 2020 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, is the biggest name on the Titans’ injured reserve list, currently at 18. Henry was put on injured reserve Nov. 1 and has missed the past four games with a broken right foot.

“He won’t be out there this week,” Vrabel said. “That’s all I can tell you. But I think he’s doing OK.”

ArLuther Lee contributed to this report for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.