Breaking down what Jeffery Simmons and Mike Vrabel said about a possible hold-in

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Good for Jeffery Simmons that he didn’t hide from questions at the Titans' mandatory minicamp.

Bad for Simmons that it amounted to wading through quicksand and brought no clarity to his situation.

Jeffery Simmons

His position coach said that Simmons is not hurt and both Terrell Williams and Mike Vrabel said Simmons was doing what the Titans have asked him to do, which amounts to heavy film work and a bit of conditioning.

We do not know for sure because the team, as usual, and Simmons prefer to leave huge space for speculation rather than offering something simple that few would have objections to. [Unlocked]

Connecting the dots, odds are this amounts to a hold-in: Simmons may have come to minicamp in a goodwill gesture that avoided fines but told the team he wouldn’t take the field as he pushes for a new deal. He’s due to make $2.22 million this season, the fourth of his rookie contract, and $10.753 in 2023, the fifth-year option exercised in May, for the 19th pick of 2019 draft.

No first-rounder from that draft has been extended at this time, and extensions two years out are rare. It’s not a great group but it does include Nick Bosa of the 49ers (No. 2) and Kyler Murray, the top pick who has been clamoring for a second deal.

The only Titan I can remember getting an extension with two years remaining on his contract is Jurrell Casey.

Further complicating things is that Simmons has no official agent registered with the NFLPA.

His uncle, Jason Hatcher, is heading his team of advisors/ negotiators. Rookie contracts are slotted and not that difficult to get done. But the sort of contract Simmons will be looking for is a much more complicated deal, and it’s generally wise to have an established rep working for you on it.

Here is Simmons' rambling attempt at explaining things.

There is one more scenario that may be possible. (Maybe you have a theory, share below.)

Vrabel is smart enough to have foreseen all of this and could have set things in motion, suggesting that his star defensive tackle simply sit out these three days – which are typically cut to two – because he understands the situation.

Either way, what would be sacrificed by someone saying, "contracts are part of the business, Jeff is at a point where that’s a pending issue for him and he’s taking some time to evaluate things."

Boom, the story is dulled.

And I don't really care if that's what he's doing. I don't think it will make him any gains. But missing these practices is not big deal. I just care about why and the way he and the team botched trying to handle it and take everyone as fools. 

Now, veterans will break Thursday and not resurface until July 26 and Simmons will join Treylon Burks as a very large story that will be speculated on over and over. (Ryan Tannehill was one too. He stewed for weeks, feeling misinterpreted over comments about mentoring Malik Willis. He could have addressed it quickly with a Tweet or a phone call.)

Vrabel and Jon Robinson understand the media well enough and have capable PR people. They complain periodically about “negative” coverage, but given chances to quash it with something as simple as “Burks has asthma and it’s part of what he’s working through as he joins the league” they seem to actually prefer for stories to catch fire and smolder for weeks.

Yes, winning solves everything, but losing in the first round of the playoffs has the fan base restless. Better PR is always better for the team. I’d love to ask Amy Adams Strunk why this is the way she prefers her organization to operate.

As for Simmons, sure, he’s underpaid for 2021. But that’s the way the NFL works. I would expect his contract will come in the spring or summer of 2023 and he undoubtedly will hit it big – more than big enough that 2021’s $2.22 million will be easily forgettable.

A player has the power to show up but not practice. That’s what A.J. Brown would have done if the Titans has not traded him.

The Titans say Simmons is doing what they asked.

But is that in the framework of him first telling them what he was willing to do?

“I’ve never had an issue with that, I don’t see that being an issue, I hope that’s something that you’re not going to write, Paul,” Vrabel told me. “I make a lot of decisions and I get to decide who practices and who doesn’t.”

Later he said: “No, I don’t take into account contracts when I am trying to figure out what guys are going to try to do each day.”

Kuharsky megaphonePlayers threaten that and it's completely possible we are seeing it happen now. What could Vrabel do if a player with a contract issue showed up but said he was not going to take the field?

I don’t know why the Titans would be immune to it. Without further explanation, we have to consider it could be happening with Simmons. I asked a lot of questions and others did too, trying to find out what was going on.

No other veteran player known to be healthy was put on a film-watching program that kept him out of even individual drills. So why would Simmons be selected for such a program if it's not contract-related?

Simmons can fight through the quicksand and Vrabel can grunt that he's "unavailable."

And we can say it doesn't make sense, there is clearly more to it and piece the facts together as best we can.

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