Titans tackle plans to appeal, resigned to missing 4 games

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee left tackle Taylor Lewan plans to appeal his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs, even knowing he’ll most likely lose.

The three-time Pro Bowl tackle spent his time Thursday answering every question from reporters defending himself, apologizing for missing the Titans’ first four games of a crucial season and explaining what happened.

“I don’t want the legacy or whatever I’ve done in the last five years to be tarnished by something like this, which was a complete accident,” Lewan said.

Lewan said he met with doctors and nutritionists this offseason looking for a way to keep himself healthier for life after football, thinking of his 2-year-old daughter following a concussion he had in the 2018 season opener. He also had his doctor and nutritionist look into what he was taking.

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He passed a drug test in April, then failed a test on May 28. Lewan said that likely was due to a bad batch of a supplement found to contain the banned substance ostarine.

The NFL notified him by July 1 that he would be suspended for four games due to the failed test, and Lewan met personally with general manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Vrabel to share the news of his pending suspension.

Yet NFL players are held responsible for anything they take. Lewan repeatedly noted that supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. He also mentioned that players have access to an app that allows them to scan bar codes for either a green, yellow or red reaction on what to use or avoid.

“It, for lack of a better word, just sucks,” Lewan said. “Really horrible situation to feel like this and walk into the locker room and tell those guys you’re not going to be with them for four games. It breaks my heart, and it’s tough man. I’ve been very candid with Jon and Vrabel and (Titans controlling owner) Miss Amy (Adams Strunk).

Lewan announced his suspension Wednesday with a video posted to social media, a day earlier than he planned to avoid news of the suspension coming from someone else. He also said he wouldn’t have discussed his suspension if the ‘B’ sample hadn’t already been tested.

Robinson said the NFL has not notified the Titans yet of the suspension and couldn’t comment. Robinson said Lewan showed him the documentation on his research about the substance and believes the left tackle didn’t knowingly take ostarine. Robinson said Lewan has the Titans’ support.

“I told Taylor half the people are going to think you’re a cheater, half the people are going to think you got screwed,” Vrabel said. “That’s where we’re at as a league. It’s the same as when I was a player.”

That means finding Lewan’s replacement for a stretch featuring three of four games on the road starting Sept. 8 at Cleveland. Tennessee’s lone home game is Sept. 15 against Indianapolis before a Thursday night game at Jacksonville and a road trip to Atlanta on Sept. 29. Protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota is a priority especially since he’s in the final year of his contract.

Veteran Dennis Kelly, who started five of his 11 games played last season, is the top candidate. He practiced at right tackle this offseason with Jack Conklin recovering from a knee injury that ended his season last December. Conklin is available for camp, and the Titans hope he returns to the form that saw him earn All-Pro honors as a rookie.

Vrabel said reporters will be at camp and can see who the Titans work to find the best five linemen.

“We absolutely have a plan,” Vrabel said. “We have a plan for a lot of things.”

Notes: Kevin Byard said he has heard from so many people since agreeing to terms Wednesday night on an extension making him the NFL’s highest-paid safety, including Face-timing with Ravens safety Earl Thomas. The biggest message Byard’s heard? “You have to go earn it now,” Byard said.

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