Will Levis credits Ryan Tannehill for easing transition as he becomes Titans starting quarterback

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ryan Tannehill's first big move as a reserve quarterback for the Tennessee Titans came as he worked his way back into practice.

The veteran made clear to Will Levis that the rookie now goes first in the team's quarterback drills.

“I didn’t want to step over him, but he came to me first to be like, ‘Hey, this is you,’" Levis said Wednesday of Tuesday's practice session. "So it’s cool to hear that. But I know that isn’t going to change our relationship and how we go forward.”

Titans coach Mike Vrabel announced the change at quarterback Tuesday.

Tannehill said he learned of the decision to go with the rookie as the Titans starting quarterback in a conversation with Vrabel on Monday.

It’s a bit of a reverse from mid-October 2019 when Tannehill was the veteran was promoted to starter with Marcus Mariota struggling in his fifth season.

“I want to handle the situation with class right?” Tannehill said. “It’s not a fun situation to be in, but I want to be a pro and handle it with class and still be a guy that people can look to, so. Yeah, not ideal situation, but I want to try and handle it well.”

For now, Tannehill is continuing to recover from his sprained ankle. The 35-year-old quarterback was limited in practice Wednesday, and Vrabel has said they hope the veteran is able to progress enough to back up Levis on Sunday when the Titans (3-5) visit Tampa Bay (3-5).

Tannehill has a better completion rate than Levis at 62% and has completed 98 of 158 passes for 1,128 yards. But he has only two touchdown passes and six interceptions with a passer rating of 71.9.

Levis, the 33rd pick overall out of Kentucky, is 1-1 as a starter since taking over after Tennessee’s bye. In his NFL debut, Levis immediately doubled the number of touchdown passes Tannehill had in six starts, becoming just the third quarterback to throw four in his first regular-season game.

Levis has thrown for 500 yards with only one interception in the final seconds of a loss last week in Pittsburgh. His passer rating is 96.4.

“The news didn’t change anything," Levis said of being selected as the starter moving forward. "It was cool to hear that and to see it become official. But it doesn’t change really much how I’m approaching things.”

The bigger challenge is wide receiver Treylon Burks is in the concussion protocol and likely to miss Sunday's game after being carted off the field in Pittsburgh. He's among five starters who did not practice Wednesday, a group including two starting offensive linemen.

Levis has been sacked six times in two starts, and he said he's easily his hardest critic.

“I’m definitely going to watch the tape, and regardless of how I play, come away thinking that I got to be a lot better than I am," Levis said. "So I feel like you got to have that mindset to keep improving in this league.”

Some fans want to focus on Tannehill's three interceptions in a divisional loss to Cincinnati in January 2022 with the Titans the AFC's No. 1 seed. He is 40-26 as a starter for Tennessee with two AFC South titles and three playoff berths.

Tannehill said he felt as if he did a lot of good to help turn things around for the franchise by winning a lot of games.

“It wasn’t perfect, never is perfect,” Tannehill said. "But hopefully people can look back and see the good things that I did and how I helped this city, helped this organization and helped to turn things around.”

NOTES: LB Azeez Al-Shaair (ankle), RG Daniel Brunskill (right ankle), CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (thumb) and OT Nicholas Petit-Frere (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday. Petit-Frere is recovering from shoulder surgery after replacing Andre Dillard as the starting left tackle. Vrabel said Murphy-Bunting is doubtful to play against the Bucs. RT Chris Hubbard was limited as he works his way through the concussion protocol.


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