NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Tennessee Titans believe Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons’ potential makes him worth the wait.
Tennessee selected Simmons with the 19th overall pick in the draft Thursday even though a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee puts his availability for the upcoming season in question.
Not even a three-year-old arrest and video in which Simmons was shown punching a woman could keep the Titans from selecting a player they considered one of the best in the entire draft.
“We’re excited,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “To get this type of player and this type of person where we got him, we’re very fortunate.”
Simmons tore his ACL while working out in Florida in February. The Titans didn’t want to speculate Thursday how soon he might be available to play and whether he’d be ready at all this season.
“We’ll see how it goes when he gets in here, not to put a timetable on any types of injuries,” general manager Jon Robinson said. “He’ll get in here and start working with our training staff. Whatever timetable that is for him to get back out there, when he’s out there, we feel he’ll really make an impact.”
The knee isn’t the only concern surrounding Simmons.
He also was arrested in 2016 following a fight in which he was seen on video punching a woman. He was found guilty of malicious mischief and pleaded no contest to a simple assault charge. Mississippi State suspended him for one game.
Simmons said the woman that he hit was arguing with his sister. Simmons said he initially tried to break up the fight until “I just let my emotions take over.” He added that it was “kind of one of those things (where) I wasn’t even thinking about the consequences.
“I wasn’t raised like that,” Simmons said. “I grew from that a lot. It was one of those things — I have a son myself — and I wouldn’t want my son hitting a woman. I regret it. I’m just grateful to get this opportunity. It’s like a brand new start in life.”
Robinson and Vrabel said they were reassured after talking to Simmons and various Mississippi State officials.
“I’ll say this,” Vrabel said, “there are bad people, and there are good people who make mistakes — bad, horrific mistakes. You can fix mistakes. You can’t fix bad people. ... This is a good guy, this is a great guy who made a horrific mistake. He lives with it every day of his life. I’m very confident, as is Jon, that he will make everyone here proud.”
Robinson cited his own track record since taking over as the Titans’ general manager in 2016.
“We haven’t brought bad people into this organization since I’ve been here,” Robinson said.
Simmons told reporters his son has become a source of motivation.
"I'm not just living for Jeffery right now. I'm living for little Jeffery," said Simmons.
Simmons recorded 29 tackles for loss over the last two years at Mississippi State and earned third-team Associated Press All-America honors last season. He formed a fearsome defensive line tandem with Mississippi State teammate Montez Sweat, who went to the Washington Redskins with the 26th overall pick.
The Titans will use Simmons on a defensive line that already features tackle Jurrell Casey, a perennial Pro Bowl performer.
Tennessee has shown a willingness to move up and down the draft board under Robinson, who has made 15 trades during his tenure. Robinson dealt the No. 1 pick in 2016 and traded up multiple times last year.
This time, Robinson decided to stay put with the No. 19 spot.
The Titans still have one more pick in each of the next five rounds and need to upgrade an offense that scored just 19.4 points per game last season. The Titans could use an edge rusher following the offseason retirement of Brian Orakpo, though they did sign Cameron Wake away from the Miami Dolphins. They also could try to beef up an offensive line after allowing 47 sacks last year.