Kenny Britt feels like it's 2011 all over again, and the Tennessee Titans' receiver is leaping for catches and looking like the player who dominated defenders catching lots of balls that season.
"I'm feeling back to my old self, not weighing 230 that I was last year lifting weights," Britt said. "I'm out there running routes and making catches and making plays because I'm not worried about my injuries. I'm more focused on the moment of catching the ball."
Britt certainly needs to be in the final year of his rookie contract.
That Britt feels healthy is exactly what the Titans and coach Mike Munchak want to hear, even as they watch his work giving him a day off here and there during training camp. Munchak said they can see the difference in Britt not worrying about anything anymore.
"He's not worried about my left knee, my right knee, understanding the offense," Munchak said. "Those things are out of his mind and he's just playing now. This is when we saw him, at his best, when he came into the league with us. Hopefully it'll make a big difference this year."
The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Britt led Tennessee with 1,476 yards receiving in his first two seasons and tied for the team lead with 12 touchdowns. When the 2011 season started, Britt looked like he had blossomed into the dominant receiver the Titans wanted after drafting him in the first round out of Rutgers in 2009.
Unfortunately, Britt tore his right ACL and MCL in the third game of 2011, ending his season after catching 17 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns. That led to three knee surgeries over the next nine months, the last on his left knee after continued swelling.
Britt played 14 games last season despite having to ice his aching and swollen knees. He still caught 45 passes for 589 yards, but his longest went for 46 yards — well short of the 80-yard receptions he had in 2010 and 2011.
The receiver spent the offseason building back his legs, working in Florida and California. He also stayed away from his old home in New Jersey where he has had more than a few incidents with police. But Britt finally got the confidence he so needed that his knee issues finally were behind him once he stepped onto a basketball court.
Britt went 1-on-1 and even teamed up with his wife for a 3-on-3 game. Winning all three games he played did wonders for his confidence.
"You have an injury like that it's hard to play basketball because it's more of a stop and go game," Britt said. "Once I got out there on the basketball court, my knees felt good and I played a couple games. Just coming back to camp the first day, I felt great. I actually felt back to myself."
The Titans are seeing the results so far in camp. Britt didn't make a catch Thursday in practice only to come back and make a leaping grab for the ball even with safety Michael Griffin and cornerback Alterraun Verner defending him. Britt is the only receiver being kept only at one position, while the others are busy learning all receiver responsibilities in this offense.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said he keeps asking Britt how young he feels with the receiver saying he feels young.
"I say, "Well you should feel young. You're 24 years old,'" Loggains said Friday. "But he's done a nice job. He had one drop yesterday, comes back makes a big play with two guys hanging on him, and that's what we expect. And that's what we need from him."
A healthy Britt also can only help Jake Locker, though Britt said the Titans' other receivers are so good that opponents will not be able to double-team him.
If Britt breaks through with the kind of season they've expected from him, he'll be in line either for the Titans to tag him as their franchise player or a big money deal from another team. Tennessee has tried to protect against both injury and losing Britt to another team by drafting Kendall Wright in the first round a year ago and Justin Hunter in the second round in April.
Veteran safety Bernard Pollard, who signed with Tennessee in March, jokes often with Britt on the field. Pollard said he sees a gifted player just working hard.
"You put the ball in his hands, he's a playmaker," Pollard said.
The Titans can't wait to see that in the regular season.
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