Veteran tight end Delanie Walker's best year yet overshadowed by Titans' season-long struggles

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Titans tight end Delanie Walker has had the best season of his nine-year career, even breaking a franchise record. It's all been overshadowed playing for one of the NFL's worst teams.

"If I accomplish goals that I set for myself that just shows that I've worked hard," Walker said. "The record that we have as Titans, it kind of hurts that statement where I come to play and I exceeded with my yards and my catches. But it's a team thing. We got to win together, and we got to achieve goals together. I don't think it really matters at the end of the day what I do."

With the season finale Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Walker has a career-high 847 yards receiving that also ranks second among AFC tight ends. That also is a franchise record, topping Frank Wycheck's 768 yards in 1998. Walker needs only five catches Sunday to top his career-best 60 receptions of last season.

But the Titans are 2-13 having lost nine straight, 13 of 14. Those losses have overshadowed Walker averaging 15.1 yards a catch — another career-high. He's shown off unexpected speed for a 6-foot, 248-pound tight end, running away from defenders for a 68-yard TD.

Yet tight ends voted to the Pro Bowl announced Tuesday night include Jimmy Graham of New Orleans, New England's Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen of Carolina and Julius Thomas, Denver. Olsen and Graham play for teams with losing records, but both have more yards receiving, catches and touchdowns than Walker, who is an alternate.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said it's always hard when a team has a record as the Titans do for players to be voted to the Pro Bowl.

"Sometimes it's really a popularity contest," Whisenhunt said. "We've had some guys that have played hard for us. Delanie Walker is certainly one of those guys. But a lot of times it doesn't work that way, so we certainly understand that."

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is a first alternate with his five sacks, 25 quarterback pressures and 12 tackles for loss. Casey said Wednesday he won't go if asked because he wants to be picked first when he plays in the Pro Bowl. Walker said he hadn't decided if he would go if tapped because of playoffs or injuries.

The Titans have had only one player voted to the Pro Bowl in the last four seasons — cornerback Alterraun Verner for 2013. That coincides with Tennessee having only one winning season in that stretch.

Walker needs 99 yards receiving to pass Wycheck for the best back-to-back seasons by a tight end as well.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday the NFL currently has a bunch of great tight ends, but Walker certainly has his attention as "matchup nightmare."

"We've got him listed as a game wrecker, and he had a great game against us the first outing up here," Pagano said. "He's a heck of a threat."

Still, a tough season for the team makes enjoying individual accomplishments tough.

"Long as I know that I played my heart out and gave it all, that's all that matters," Walker said.

Notes: The Titans added DT Sammie Hill to the injury report with a sore foot that kept him from practicing Wednesday. Those limited in practice included LT Taylor Lewan (left ankle), QB Zach Mettenberger (right shoulder), OT Byron Stingily (ankle), LB Kamerion Wimbley (left hamstring). LB Zaviar Gooden (hamstring) practiced fully.


Online:

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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