NASHVILLE — Cornerback Kristian Fulton’s rookie season with the Tennessee Titans will be without precedent in 2020. The team’s plan to bring him up to speed, however, will be mostly the same.
Fulton was selected 61st overall in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft and is no stranger to adversity. Prior to his sophomore season, the defensive back received a two-year suspension while at LSU from the NCAA. The use of someone else’s urine for a PED test to avoid testing positive for marijuana use cost Fulton the entirety of the 2017 season. An NCAA interpretation panel reviewed the case after the fact and alleviated the punishment from a two-year suspension to just one.
The former Tiger’s resurgence helped lock down opposing offenses en route to an undefeated record and College Football Playoff National Championship in 2019. Now, Fulton needs to hone that focus once again.
“To really be good in a defensive scheme, or any scheme, it helps to know what’s going on around you,” coach Mike Vrabel said Sunday. “You have to learn your job first and, as you branch out, you have to learn what the pieces around you are doing so maybe you can do your job a little better and your job’s a little easier when you understand what other people are doing.”
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Learning curves figure to be much steeper in a time where COVID-19 derails any chance of normalcy. The 5-foot-11 inch, 197-pound Fulton’s natural abilities and versatility equip him well to play both outside or slot corner in Tennessee’s defense with the loss of Logan Ryan in free agency. The greater struggle, for Fulton and all 2020 rookies, will be adaptation and recognition.
Only then can there be implementation.
“It’s been good so far,” Fulton said. “Just getting back into football shape, getting a feel for the game. Haven’t been into real football activities since the (National Championship) game.”
Fulton’s position room is stacked with veterans who can help him find his footing as he learns, though.
A wealth of experiences, leadership and football acumen remains at the rookie’s disposal. Players from all manner of backgrounds and draft status surround him in the defensive backs room and will incorporate him into one of the tightest units on the team. How soon Fulton will be ready is anyone’s guess with less than a month until the Titans travel to Denver for their season opener on September 14 but the urgency is lessened with the signing of two-time Pro Bowl corner Johnathan Joseph this offseason.
A 14-year vet, Joseph provides plenty of stability for the coaching staff should the Fulton take some time to catch up.
“(Fulton)’s rookie year is completely different,” said safety Kevin Byard. “I had a rookie minicamp. I had OTAs. I was able to kind of get the basics of the defense in pretty quick. We did the full install, we came back for OTAs and did the install again and then we came into training camp. So, for Kristian, it’s definitely different. He pretty much has a rushed process.”
Rushed or not, Fulton’s acclimation process is essential to Tennessee in 2020.
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