NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Safety Johnathan Cyprien's second season with the Tennessee Titans was cut short when he suffered a torn left ACL during training camp in August. Now he is working to return to his pre-injury form and plans to "let it all out" on the field.
Cyprien's physical play makes it clear he loves football. He mentioned former NFL safeties Sean Taylor and Dashon Goldson as players he enjoyed watching before he made it to the NFL, and being a hard hitter has been a part of Cyprien's game for as long as he can remember.
"It just something within me. Early in my career back in my high school days, I always felt like if I am going to hit you, I am going to hit you. I am not going to hold anything back," he said. "It's instilled in me that whatever I am going to do, it's going to be to the best of my ability. I don't go halfway about things."
Being out for so long is devastating to any fierce competitor. But Cyprien found a silver lining in the timing of his injury and believes he will be in better shape when he returns.
"A lot of guys get injured during the year, come back too early and don't look the same," Cyprien said. "One good thing is the time I got hurt. It allowed me to have until next August to be 100 percent and compete in training camp."
So far, everything is going well with Cyprien's recovery. He rehabbed at the Titans' facility during the season instead of going back to Miami because he wanted to be around his teammates. Being around the guys during the week helped him keep a positive mindset and allowed him to remain close to the game.
As a six-year NFL veteran, Cyprien has a network of teammates and friends who have had serious injuries, and that network has served as a source of wisdom as he navigates the rehab process.
"Unfortunately in my career, I've known plenty of people that have injured their knee. You always put a prayer up for them and wish them the best, but going through it, you see the mental and physical battles you have to go through to overcome the small hurdles you encounter after the surgery," Cyprien said. "I can appreciate the guys that I know have been through the surgery before. They gave me a better understanding of how to push through things, and set[ting] small goals helps every day."
His faith has also been a guiding light during tough times. Cyprien is thankful for how far he has come and is using the injury to get a better perspective on how to overcome adversity that comes his way in the future.
Fellow safety Kenny Vaccaro played well in Cyprien's absence and made a case for the Titans to re-sign him. Cyprien is already under contract, and All-Pro Kevin Byard will be up for a deal in the near future. Can the three alpha defensive backs coexist?
"There is a way for it to exist," Cyprien said. "It all depends, it's something that we would discuss with the team. We are all safeties that can be starters. There are different packages, but I would have to leave that up to Coach [defensive coordinator Dean Pees]. He's a great coordinator. I think whatever he feels is best would be the best."
Before his knee injury, Cyprien was gearing up for what he believed would be a big year under Pees.
"I feel the year playing for Pees would have been a Pro Bowl season," Cyprien said. "When he first came to coach, we sat and looked at film. He showed us what he wanted to do with the defense. He had me being down in the box and being back in coverage. In his system, the safeties have to grab the bull by the horn. The safeties pretty much own his defense because we have the best view, have to make all of the calls and keep everyone in position. We are the last line of defense. He was excited for KB [Byard] and me to start the season."
Pees' reliance on the safety position could be a way to justify having Cyprien, Vaccaro and Byard on the roster. Given the league's tendency to utilize three-receiver sets and still attempt to run the ball effectively, having three safeties in the game in sub packages would offer a counter. Either way, Cyprien is excited about being able to return to the football field, and he hopes it's with the Titans.