It would be understandable if Ahmard Hall kept a safe distance from his Tennessee Titans teammates and coaches because he wanted to be extra cautious.
After all, it was a simple mistake that earned the veteran fullback a four-game suspension for violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Yet that’s not why he steered clear of the north and west sides of the city for the duration of that suspension, which ended Monday.
“I couldn’t come in the building, I couldn’t have any contact with the team, so there really wasn’t any reason for me to come over to this side,” he said Wednesday. “And it would have felt kind of weird to have been here knowing that I couldn’t have the contact with the team.”
Instead, he stayed close to home and spent time with his family, which expanded three months ago with the birth of a daughter, his third child. He also worked out, generally “used my time wisely” and watched his team with three of four games without him.
“I’ve never had to sit out a game and not be able to be on the sideline, at least,” he said. “…I definitely learned a lot. … You can see things from a different perspective and see how guys are doing things, maybe you can learn from what another guy is doing. You learn how expendable you are in this league. Nothing stops.”
Hall has not yet been returned to the active roster, but he practiced with the starting offense Wednesday as the team began the bulk of its preparations for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh (2-2).
The Titans have a one-week roster exemption for him, which allows them to evaluate his fitness and decide when — or if — they want to reactivate him. In order for him to return the active roster, someone must be waived to create an opening,
“It’s good to have him back, he can do a lot of things for us,” coach Mike Munchak said. “He is familiar with our offense. Obviously it was just nice to get him on the field again, get him loose again, and get him back in football shape.
“He looked good so far from what I can tell. We will watch the tape and see how he does after [Wednesday] and [Thursday] and make our decision by the end of the week.”
The most obvious move would be to release fullback Quinn Johnson, who filled that role in Hall’s absence. Munchak noted that it is uncommon for a team to carry two fullbacks but said other factors would be considered as well.
Johnson was acquired in a trade with Green Bay eight days before the regular season opener, when the team learned of the suspension. According to Hall, he tested positive in March for an over-the-counter stimulant he took a day earlier to help him stay awake during a drive from Tennessee to Texas.
Johnson, who spent the previous two seasons with Green Bay, appeared in all four games and caught three passes for 30 yards.
“Quinn did a good job,” Hall said. “He’s a veteran guy. Once you’ve been in the league for a few years, you can pick up an offense. He came in and did well.”
In Hall’s five NFL seasons, the Titans have finished among the top 10 in rushing four times. They slipped somewhat to 17th last season and struggled further at the start of this season.
After four weeks, Tennessee is last in the league at 66.8 rushing yards per game.
“It’s not a one-person thing,” Hall said. “It’s not me being back is going to make it better. It’s the whole unit has to get together, get on the same sheet of music and get it fixed.”
While the Titans have had a hard time running in his absence, Hall said he would not run from his responsibility for the suspension and accepted the reality of what it meant.
“It was embarrassing because people can believe what they want to believe,” Hall said. “The way they put it out — ‘substance abuse,’ or whatever — it lets people assume whatever they want to assume.
“It was embarrassing but you can’t run from your problems. You have to just face it head on and move on.”