Lavelle Hawkins decided the best thing to do was look at himself.
Not in the mirror – literally or metaphorically – mind you. Instead, he pulled out some DVDs.
Admittedly discouraged by the slow start to his professional football career, the Tennessee Titans’ wide receiver wanted to remind himself of what he had done in order to convince himself of what he could do.
“I watched highlight tapes,” he said. “It kept reminding me that, ‘You’re good. You can do this.’ So I watched my highlight tapes – from college, from high school. If I could have I would have gotten my Pop Warner tapes.”
Buoyed by the images of himself as one of the top 10 all-time receivers at Cal and as a Parade All-American out of Stockton, Calif., he has shown more than just occasional flashes throughout the offseason.
The 2008 fourth-round draft pick has displayed the type of consistency and understanding that has teammates and coaches looking forward to seeing him in future contests, beginning with Saturday’s preseason opener at Seattle.
“He’s making plays and he’s getting in the right spots,” offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said. “He’s not making mental mistakes like he did before.
“Now, it will be interesting to see what he does when people can tackle him and hit him. That’s the next step – if he can make plays in preseason games and make some catches and run then we’ll be in good shape.”
Hawkins appeared in just 23 games over his first two NFL seasons. He caught seven passes as a rookie and the same number in 2009. He still has not scored his first touchdown as a professional.
Yet even those modest numbers made him the Titans’ most productive draft pick at that position in years before Kenny Britt caught 42 passes as a rookie last fall. Prior to Hawkins, Tennessee selected wide receivers Jonathan Orr in 2006 and Paul Williams and Joel Filani in 2007. Between them, those three have caught exactly one pass (by Williams) in the NFL.
“This is another level here,” Hawkins said. “Guys are faster and stronger, So you have to run your routes faster, and some routes you have to start off a little slower. It all takes timing and repetition.
“… It did get me, but my confidence is back now and I’m ready to go.”
Throughout organized team activities (OTAs) in May and June and the early part of training camp, Hawkins’ progress regularly has been recognized – often without prompting – by coach Jeff Fisher, who typically is loath to single out any individual.
“The good thing about (Hawkins) now is that now he knows at all the (receiver) positions,” Fisher said. “He’s lining up, and he’s not making any mistakes. And he’s in a position now. What a difference a year makes, where he’s helping the other guys get lined up.
“So that speaks volumes of what he’s done in the last year.”
It also suggests that before too long he might have some new additions to his highlight tapes.
“Everybody knows the type of potential he already has,” quarterback Vince Young said. “I mean, he’s so explosive. Any one-on-one battles I feel like my confidence is extremely high that he’ll win that.
“The biggest thing that we like about him since OTAs and right now at camp is that … his mental game with the offense has gotten better and better. That’s a good thing.”
And it does not take a DVD to see it.
• Tuesday was another rough day for defensive backs, particularly cornerbacks.
Cortland Finnegan was held out of the workout because of continuing issues with his hip flexor and/or groin. Tye Hill again was limited to individual drills only, and rookie Alterraun Verner left practice briefly with an apparent leg injury but returned.
Safety Vincent Fuller also was knocked out with a leg injury but did not get back in action.
“I don’t think there’s much to be concerned about,” Fisher said, “with the exception of maybe William (Hayes).”
Hayes, a defensive end, went down with what looked to be an injury to his right knee. When he left the practice field with members of the training staff, though, he walked on his own.
• Offensive lineman Michael Toudouze, a veteran of six NFL contests (all with Indianapolis) signed with the Titans on Tuesday.
Originally drafted in the fifth round in 2006 by the Colts, he spent all of 2006 and the entire 2008 regular season on the practice squad. He appeared in four games in 2007 and two more last season.
Free agent rookie guard John Malecki was waived to make room on the roster.
• Running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Kenny Britt will sign autographs Wednesday.
Both were slated to sign Tuesday, but shortly after the start of practice the team was forced to its indoor practice field by lightning in the area. It also meant that fans in attendance had to leave the facility and the autograph session was postponed.
In addition to Johnson and Britt, defensive tackle Jason Jones, linebacker Colin Allred, wide receiver Bobby Sewall, guard Ryan Durand, and fullback Jed Collins will sign Wednesday.