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The Tennessee Titans suffered a terrible blow on the first day of organized team activities when offensive tackle Byron Bell dislocated his left ankle toward the end of practice Tuesday.
Bell, who ran with the first-team offense at right tackle to open OTAs, seemed to catch his leg in the ground and twisted, causing a gruesome injury with his foot pointed in the wrong direction. He had to be carted off, and season-ending surgery will no doubt be upcoming shortly.
Bell was not expected to retain the starting position at right tackle, as first-round pick Jack Conklin will be the starter there sooner or later. However, with Bell's injury, sooner came sooner than expected for Conklin.
Conklin moved in and worked with the first-team unit at right tackle for the remainder of Tuesday's practice.
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said it was frustrating to lose Bell, who had come into camp in top shape.
"'Bear' has really had a great offseason. He's really worked hard," Mularkey said. "That's the first thing he said, 'I've worked so hard to have it end like this.' Those are the kinds of injuries that are going to happen in this game. It's unfortunate for him and unfortunate for us. He's a good football player, and we're going to miss him."
Where the loss of Bell hurts the Titans most is in versatility. He was most likely ticketed to be Tennessee's third tackle behind Conklin and Taylor Lewan. Bell's ability to play four of the five positions on the offensive line made him very valuable to Mularkey and offensive line coach Russ Grimm.
"He was going to compete for one (of the roster spots)," Mularkey said. "That loss is greater than you think, because he can play inside and outside on both sides."
Bell was the Titans' primary right tackle last season, starting eight games there after spending the first seven games of the year as the team's starting left guard. He also played left tackle in the season finale at Indianapolis when Lewan was sidelined due to an injury.
With the loss of Bell, the Titans now have to search hard for a third tackle, with former practice-squad players Josue Matias and Will Poehls the most likely in-house options for now. Expect the Titans to look at street free agents and also to mine the waiver wire for help, too, as they will have the top priority on all waiver claims from now through the first three weeks of the regular season.
Bell re-signed with the Titans in the offseason, agreeing to a one-year deal with the club for the second consecutive year. He spent his first four NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers.