Tuesday's NFL: Divisional loss left Titans QB Tannehill with ‘deep scar’

Teresa Walker
Associated Press

Sleepless nights. Rewinding the loss in his mind over and over again. Therapy sessions as well.

And weeks and weeks of time.

Ryan Tannehill has lost big games before. Losing as the AFC’s No. 1 seed with the Titans quarterback throwing three interceptions – the last with 20 seconds left – left him with a “deep scar.”

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been the easy scapegoat for fans angry that the Titans Super Bowl hopes ended in the divisional round.

“I was in a dark place, and it took me a while and a lot of work to get out of it,” Tannehill said Tuesday, talking with reporters for the first time since the Titans’ 19-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 22.

Tannehill said he’s used therapy for a while in his career.

“This is the first time that … I absolutely needed it to pull me out of a dark space,” Tannehill said.

Tennessee fans have made Tannehill the scapegoat for the loss, angry at missing the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 22 years. It didn’t help that Cincinnati wound up the AFC champ after beating Tennessee on a last-second field goal set up by Tannehill’s third interception.

Now Tannehill goes into this season with the highest salary cap number in the NFL after reworking his contract last summer to free up space for seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones, whom the Titans released in March.

The Titans also traded up in the third round to draft quarterback Malik Willis of Liberty, the highest quarterback this franchise has drafted since taking Marcus Mariota at No. 2 overall in 2015.

After months of preparation and work to put himself and the Titans in that position, Tannehill knows it wasn’t his best game.

“To go out and play beneath the standard that I have for myself it stung, it hurt,” Tannehill said. “And like I said, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of reflecting, re-watching the game over and over in my head. But yeah, took a lot of work to get through it.”

He compared all that pain to a cut that finally has healed into a scar.

“It’s always there in your mind, and now it’s fuel for me,” Tannehill said. “It’s fuel for me to work and get ready with a passion and come into this season with a fire and a desire to win like I’ve never had before.”

Tannehill also has taken some flak for not being with the Titans at the start of the offseason program last month. The quarterback said he was finishing up a renovation in Florida and busy working out. A social media post in April showing him on a boat was a photo taken in March.

The Titans quarterback is back at work without his top wide receiver. The Titans traded A.J. Brown to Philadelphia during the first round of the NFL draft last week, then used the 18th selection overall to draft Treylon Burks of Arkansas as his replacement.

Tannehill had been communicating with Brown and fully expected the receiver to receive an extension from Tennessee. The trade shocked Tannehill who lost both a friend and a top playmaker in Brown, but he said he told Burks he’s excited what the rookie brings.

The rookies won’t join the veterans until after their minicamp May 13-15.

The Titans have given Tannehill plenty of new playmakers this offseason from trading for veteran receiver Robert Woods and signing tight end Austin Hooper to drafting Burks, tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo and receiver Kyle Phillips.

Tannehill also had an answer for anyone doubting whether he can lead the Titans to a Super Bowl. Yes, he knows he has to play better in January.

“I have the utmost confidence in myself and I think my teammates have confidence in me,” Tannehill said. “And so at the end of the day, that’s all that matters to me.”

First Asian American among new officials

The NFL has hired 10 new on-field officials, including the first Asian American to officiate in the league and a former player.

Lo van Pham joins the NFL from the Big 12 Conference. He was born in Vietnam and after a stop in the Philippines, moved to the United States when he was seven.

Mike Morton becomes the third former NFL player on the 2022 roster of officials, joining Nate Jones and Terry Killens. Morton was drafted in the fourth round in 1995 by the Raiders, and was a linebacker for them from 1995-98. He also played in St. Louis, Green Bay (2000), and Indianapolis during his seven-year NFL career.

Robin DeLorenzo becomes the third woman on the NFL’s roster of on-field game officials joining Sarah Thomas and Maia Chaka. She joins the NFL from the Big Ten Conference.

Tra Boger, the son of longtime NFL referee Jerome Boger, joins the league as a field judge out of the SEC. They are the only current father-son combination on the roster.

Down judge Max Causey, umpires Brandon Cruse, Duane Heydt and Alex Moore, field judge Alonzo Ramsey and side judge Jeff Shears round out the 10.

The league previously announced the promotion of Tra Blake to referee. Blake replaced the retired Tony Corrente.

The NFL also announced Tuesday that Denise Crudup and Artenzia Young-Seigler are the first Black female replay officials.