The Tennessee Titans signed safety Al Afalava early in the offseason, at least in part, because they wanted to add a heavy hitter to their secondary.
The Chicago Bears released Afalava nearly a year and half earlier because he was just, well … heavy.
“That was on me,” he said. “I went to Hawaii and just ate my life away.”
For more than a year after that he was among the NFL’s version of the living dead — one of many on the outside looking in, eager for any opportunity. He spent a couple weeks with Indianapolis late in 2010 but the Colts cut him at the end of training camp the next summer. He remained unsigned for all of the 2011 regular season.
It was a rapid fall for a player who came into the league as Chicago’s sixth-round pick in 2009 and started 13 games as a rookie. He celebrated that early success with a return to his home state and many of that island’s delicacies.
“Things just didn’t go my way … and I got released,” he said. “I came into offseason training [after his rookie season] around 240 pounds.”
His preferred playing weight is 212.
His career path comes full circle, in a manner of speaking, Sunday when the Titans (3-5) host the Bears (6-1) at LP Field (noon, Fox).
Chicago has one of the NFL’s best secondaries. Its 16 interceptions are tied for the league lead and ranks among the top 10 for opponents’ completion percentage.
Afalava has a small but steadily increasing role for Tennessee, which has the AFC’s worst pass defense in terms of average yards per game and has allowed opponents to complete more than 72 percent of their throws, the highest percentage in the NFL.
“To me, I think there are a lot of guys that are in his position, that drafted then all of a sudden a system may change, or you don’t fit in this guy’s system and then you float around for a year or two,” Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said. “I like his attitude of the game. I like what he brings to the table for us. The more he’s around, the more we’re around we can play the packages that he’s good at I think he’ll play more.”