Titans' medical team clearance of Caleb Farley keyed team's first-round pick

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The biggest, most important sign-offs on Caleb Farley didn’t come from Jon Robinson and his scouting staff or Mike Vrabel and his coaches.

They came from the four orthopedists among the six physicians on the Titans’ medical staff: Thomas Byrd, Daniel Lamar, Damian Petty and John Zvijac.

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Courtesy Virginia Tech athletics

My understanding is that teams were only able to send one doctor to Indianapolis for the medical checks that occurred for roughly 150 prospects on the first weekend of April – Jon Robinson wasn’t certain of that Thursday night or didn’t want to share.

But the Titans had earmarked Farley because of their interest in him, and thus got to examine him for themselves rather than be left reliant on a pooled medical report.

None of the Titans doctors are back experts, per se, but like any group of any pro sport teams doctors, they've evaluated and treated all sorts of injuries. Farley is also sure to have been examined by the top NFL back doctor who was in Indianapolis, and the Titans' medical people had access to that report as part of pooled information. 

The collective thumbs-up of the Titans' doctors along with what Virginia Tech’s trainers and Farley told the team was enough to offset concerns for Robinson, the team's decision-maker on personnel matters, about two surgeries on the player's back in the last year.

“We spent time with him and got the medicals on him,” Robinson said. “Had follow-up phone calls and talked to trainers over at Virginia Tech that he’s worked with and really got a detailed breakdown of what he’s been doing and how he attacks everything and everybody spoke glowingly of that.

“And I’ve had follow-up conversations with our medical team several times about Caleb because we had such an affinity for him.”FarleyPC

Thus, Robinson made the call and the Titans' representatives in Cleveland turned in a card with Farley’s name on it when pick No. 22 arrived.

The team adds a cornerback many analysts suggested is more talented than Jaycee Horn (eighth to Carolina) or Patrick Surtain II (ninth to Denver) and only lasted until 22 because of the medical concerns.

Vrabel said he’s excited to get a talented player at a premium position who can make an impact.

“The thing that stood out to me was the athleticism,” he said. “You see a former receiver that’s learned how to play corner and -- hopefully like a lot of us -- will continue to improve. But there is a certain level of athleticism, smoothness, a lot of fluidity.”

The 6-foot-2 and 197-pound Farley has not played in a game since Nov. 23, 2019. He missed the final two games of that season with the symptoms that led to his initial back surgery, then opted out of 2020.

Farley said he expects to be ready for training camp while Robinson and Mike Vrabel spoke about how he will be acclimated to what the Titans do as soon as is allowed, but they won’t be setting any timelines for him.

“I’m not going to get into the medical files on him,” Robinson said. “I think whatever has been disclosed out there, I think it is what it is. He said he’s feeling good. We’re talked to the training staff over at Virginia Tech, they said he’s working hard over there with those guys and feeling good. So he’s excited to get in here and work with our guys.”

Farley has clearly reached a point of exhaustion with regard to answering questions about his back and tried to use his Zoom with Titans’ media to pivot.

“I’m so glad it’s behind me and I’m a Tennessee Titan,” he said. “Let’s go.”

He said “I feel great,” thoroughly dismissed the idea that he could require further surgery and said he is eager to get a playbook when he visits the team Friday. No team showed more interest in him than the Titans, he said, and he declined to mention any others who had courted him.

His best answer was probably with regard to how he can best be used.

That's just the sort of coverage and mentality the Titans need. But to provide it, they need a healthy Farley. The doctors did their job and gave Robinson their best advice. If the GM's seventh first-round pick winds up missing games because of his back, that will be a mark against Robinson.

No one keeps draft-record scores on the medical staff. A year removed from the Isaiah Wilson fiasco, with a roster that suffered from free-agent departures and salary-cap cuts, the Titans need quality players.

Farley looks to be one, but he's got to fit in with the popular football thinking that, to start with, availability is the most important ability. 

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