Miami Dolphins

Titans’ Mike Vrabel believes Andre Branch targeted Tennessee’s star offensive tackle

Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan  is held back by defensive back Kevin Byard, No. 31, and linebacker Will Compton, No. 51, during a scuffle in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.
Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is held back by defensive back Kevin Byard, No. 31, and linebacker Will Compton, No. 51, during a scuffle in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. AP

Titans coach Mike Vrabel believes Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch intentionally targeted Tennessee left tackle Taylor Lewan during an interception return Sunday, but stopped short of calling Branch’s blind-side hit dirty.

The collision, which happened right in front of the Titans bench and set off a brawl between the two teams, left Lewan motionless on the ground for a few moments before he jumped up and starting running erratically.

He suffered a concussion on the play, the Titans later announced, and did not return to the game.

A day later, Vrabel was asked by a Nashville reporter about the hit, as well as footage from the game in which Branch appeared to shout “body bag” as Lewan walked to the locker room with the help of medical personnel.

“This game, it’s a vicious game,” said Vrabel, a linebacker who played 14 years in the NFL before transitioning into coaching. “It’s played by different types of people. They’re not normal people. They’re professional football players. Do I think it was dirty? Probably not. Do I think it was targeted at Taylor? I would say absolutely.”

When asked about possible retaliation by his team for the hit, Vrabel responded: “If we get another chance at it … That’s the Dolphins. We’ll worry about the Titans and we have to worry about the Texans.”

Tennessee plays Houston this coming weekend.

“I don’t know, man,” Branch said, when asked about the hit late Sunday. “I play football. It’s a violent sport and I’m just making a clean hit. Reshad [Jones] made an amazing pick. Our goal is to get to the end zone. We’re the blockers and I made a block. ... It’s a part of football. Plays like that are going to happen.”

Monday morning, Dolphins coach Adam Gase was still irritated by the ensuing brawl, which led to 15-yard taunting penalties assessed against Bobby McCain and Jordan Phillips. This is the second consecutive regular-season game in which the Dolphins were involved in a fight; Jarvis Landry and Kenyan Drake were ejected for their roles in a melee involving the Bills in the 2017 finale.

“It just drives me nuts,” Gase said of his players’ behavior in Sunday’s fight. “I’d rather our guys celebrate with the guy that just intercepted the ball instead of doing what happened there. We’ll address it. We’ll handle it and we’ll make changes if we have to.”

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