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Harold Landry III delivers one of the NFL’s most impressive comeback seasons following torn ACL as Titans pass rusher

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee pass rusher Harold Landry III has produced a comeback season for the decades.

Fresh off earning a Pro Bowl nod with his best season yet to earn a five-year contract extension, Landry was poised for a strong follow-up. Except the outside linebacker tore an ACL days before the 2022 season opener. With a full year for recovery, Landry returned for the 2023 opener.

Now Landry has 10 1/2 sacks. That makes him just the third NFL veteran since 1982 (when the sack became an official individual statistic) and first since 2001 to miss an entire season and return with at least 10 sacks the next.

Joe Johnson did it in 2000 with 12 sacks for New Orleans before Charlie Clemons had 13 1/2 sacks — also for the Saints — in 2001.

“It definitely feels good knowing all the work that I put in is paying off,” Landry said.

Getting back to this level wasn’t easy after what Landry called an injury and recovery that “probably was the hardest thing that I’ve had to go through in my life.” The slow start to this didn’t help, and Landry credits his wife and two sons for being his best support.

“It just hurts when you’re not seeing the results just yet,” Landry said.

Better yet? Most of Landry’s production has come since Week 6.

Landry had only one sack and a tackle for loss when the Titans flew to London to play Baltimore, and that’s where the 41st overall pick of the 2018 draft started looking like himself. Tennessee lost, but Landry had his second sack of the season and a pair of tackles for loss.

“I just feel like it kind of just started to click for me and I was able to improve each week and kind of get back into the groove playing like the player that I know I can be for this organization,” Landry said.

Landry has been one of the NFL’s best-producing pass rushers ever since.

He is tied for sixth in the NFL with 9 1/2 sacks and tied for third in the league with 13 tackles for loss with Maxx Crosby of the Raiders and Khalil Mack of the Chargers since Week 6. Only Cleveland’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (15) and Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David (14) have had more.

As the Titans (5-11) conclude this season on Sunday against Jacksonville (9-7), Landry is second in sacks only to Pro Bowl alternate Denico Autry, who has a career-high 11 1/2 sacks.

They give the Titans the NFL’s only team with two defenders with double-digit sacks. Only 10 teams have more than Tennessee’s 45 sacks, up from 39 last season and the franchise’s highest total since having 55 in 2000.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel says he just likes where Landry is at with his maturity, consistency, daily approach and work ethic.

“He does a lot of different things for us,” Vrabel said. “I think that he’s really factored in, I think, starting to feel better, cutting it loose. And happy for whatever personal success that he has or making a bunch of plays and helping us out.”

Landry ranks fifth on the Titans in total tackles (69), third with 46 quarterback pressures and his 14 tackles for loss are a team-high. He’s been at his best in the final 15 minutes where he has gotten 8 1/2 of his sacks.

It helps having Autry, having a career-year with 11 1/2 sacks and 28 1/2 in his three seasons with Tennessee. Landry wouldn’t mind joining Autry by finishing off this season with a couple more sacks and a win.

“You always want to set personal records from a production standpoint,” Landry said. “And if I go out there and handle my business from a production standpoint, all that does is help the team find a way to get a win.”

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