Tennessee Titans fans can finally put “inhaler-gate” to bed

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks is announced as the eighteenth overall pick to the Tennessee Titans during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks is announced as the eighteenth overall pick to the Tennessee Titans during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

So, the truth finally emerges about Tennessee Titans wide receiver Treylon Burks and the mysterious ailment that has sidelined him for parts of OTAs.

In typical Tennessee Titans fashion, trying to get any information that might even be tangentially related to an injury or health concern took weeks of questioning. Mercifully, wide receivers coach Rob Moore announced earlier that it was asthma that was keeping the first-round rookie from practicing fully.

Asthma narrows the body’s airways and makes it difficult for the asthmatic to breathe, but it is treatable for the vast majority who suffer from it. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says this about the disease:

"One of the most effective medications for controlling asthma is inhaled corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory medications. Taken early and as directed, these well-tolerated and safe medications can improve asthma control and normalize lung function."

Can we please lay this ridiculous “Inhaler-Gate” story to rest? I know it’s early summer and there isn’t much football to discuss, but our first-round draft pick has asthma and it’s treatable. End of story, so can we rally around this talented young man rather than questioning him?

Burks caught 66 passes for 1104 yards and 11 TDs last season for the Arkansas Razorbacks. It’s unlikely the disease developed between his final game as a Razorback and the 2022 NFL draft, and in fact, the Tennessee Titans also made it clear they knew of Treylon’s condition when they drafted him.

His asthma doesn’t mean the Tennessee Titans made a mistake in drafting Burks as a replacement for A.J. Brown. It simply means an adjustment period may be necessary as he learns what his body needs to be a successful NFL player. I’m confident he and the Titans’ training staff will develop a regiment to treat his asthma and allow him to do what he does best.

But how could the Tennessee Titans draft someone with asthma?

To ease everyone’s minds here are some famous, successful athletes who also struggled with asthma.

David Beckham is one of the world’s most famous athletes and soccer players. He was a dominant force in his sport for years. How many players are so good they make a movie about the way you play? (Bend It Like Beckham). Six Premier League titles, two MLS Cup wins, and 1 UEFA Champions League win says it all.

The wheels on the Bus go round and round. That’s right NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis also suffered from asthma when he played. He suffered an attack in a nationally-televised game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was hot that day under the summer heat in what was then known as Alltel Stadium. (Or as Titans fans “lovingly” referred to it in those days, “All-Tarp” Stadium). Bettis later said he felt like he was dying because he couldn’t breathe. The Steelers treated the condition with Albuterol and Bettis re-entered the game and finished with 114 yards on 21 carries. Bettis retired as the NFL’s 8th all-time leading rusher with 13,662 yards and was named to the Hall of Fame in 2015.

Paula Radcliffe is one of the greatest marathon runners of all time. She won both the London Marathon and the New York Marathon 3 times each and at one time held the world record for the fastest women’s marathon ever at 2:15:25, a record that stood for 16 years. She was the silver medalist at the 1999 World Championships and the 2002 Commonwealth champion in the 5000 meters.

Dara Torres is a 12-time Olympic swimming medalist (4 gold, 4 silver, and 4 bronze) and competed in 5 Olympic games. At the age of 41, she broke her own world record in the 50m freestyle. The previous record-holder? A 15-year-old Dara Torres. The 41-year-old was also the oldest American swimmer to ever compete in the Olympics, male or female.

Speaking of swimmers, the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, also suffers from exercise-induced asthma. He did alright for himself with 28 total medals (23 gold).

Dennis Rodman won 5 NBA Championships, was named to the NBA All-Defensive team 7 times and was named the Defensive Player of the Year twice. He is considered perhaps the greatest rebounder in the history of basketball, leading the league in that category for 7 consecutive seasons. In 2011, he was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and in 2021 was named to the league’s 75th Anniversary Team. Rodman even enjoyed a stint as a professional wrestler, taking to the ring as a member of the nWo. What many don’t know is that “The Worm” also suffers from asthma.

Track and Field great, Jackie Joyner-Kersee got her likeness on a Wheaties box with a career that included 3 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals across four different Olympic Games. She’s considered one of the greatest heptathlon runners of all time and the first woman to ever score over 7,000 points in the event. Sports Illustrated for Women named her the Greatest Female Athlete of All Time. Her struggles with asthma when she competed were well-known and she didn’t shy away from putting a face on the disease. As a youngster, she was told she could never be an athlete and fought hard to prove the naysayers wrong.

Am I saying Burks is on par with such athletes, or that he will replicate their successes? No, Burks is a rookie who has yet to catch a single pass as a professional football player. But as demonstrated by the above luminaries, it isn’t out of the question for him to enjoy a fruitful NFL career with the Tennessee Titans. Asthma needn’t mean a death knell for his success.

The only thing we need to lay to rest in the grave is this indefatigable story that just won’t go away. At the very least the Tennessee Titans deserve the benefit of the doubt and Burks deserves better.