It’s been all work and no play for Lavelle Hawkins thus far this season. Now the Tennessee Titans have to hope that it has not made him a dull wide receiver.
Few, if any, players inspired more excitement in coaches and teammates during the offseason than Hawkins, the third-year player out of Cal. It was universally agreed that he had become a much more reliable route runner and a more confident performer.
Then, in the second preseason game (against Arizona) he thrilled the sellout crowd at LP Field when he hurdled an opposing defender on a reverse near the goal line.
Since the start of the regular season, though, the only time he’s been on the field has been when it’s the practice field. He’s been inactive for the first four games even as rookies Damian Williams and Marc Mariani have been in uniform.
“I’ll tell what, I’ve never had to go through this in my life,” Hawkins said. “But I’ve been here for three years and I kind of know what’s going on. It’s one of those things where you’ve got to be patient and you have to wait.
“You just have to stay positive about a lot of the stuff that goes on because if you start thinking on the negative side, that’s when your chance will come and you’ll blow.”
Hawkins’ chance will come Sunday at Dallas if Justin Gage is unable to play because of a hamstring injury sustained last Sunday against Denver. He was not involved in practice as preparations began for the game against the Cowboys, who have beaten the Titans in the last two meetings.
“If Justin can’t go then (Hawkins) steps up and we’ve got a good group, a solid group (of wide receivers),” coach Jeff Fisher said early in the week. “Hawk’s done everything right. He just hasn’t been active because we’ve elected to keep up the extra returner.”
The extra returner is Williams, the third-round draft pick out of USC. The primary returner, of course, is Mariani, the seventh-round draft pick out of Montana who took back a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown against the Broncos.
Because both are wide receivers, Hawkins has been forced to watch in order to guarantee enough players at other positions. If he’s in uniform Sunday, though, he’ll be the third receiver on the field behind Nate Washington and Kenny Britt.
“You never want anybody to get hurt for you to get on the field, but that’s just the game that we play,” Hawkins said. “I’m just looking forward to my chance. Hopefully I get a chance this week. I’m going to prepare like every other week and hopefully I get out there and make some plays for my team.”
It certainly seems as if he’ll have his chances.
More than half of the completions thrown by Vince Young and Kerry Collins this season have been to wide receivers. Washington currently leads the team with 14 catches and Britt is tied for third with 10. Those two also have accounted for four of the Titans’ five receiving touchdowns.
“I’ve learned from my rookie year to this year not to worry about the negative things and to try and find the positives in things,” Hawkins said. “ … I think I’ve been working just as hard. I just can’t wait to see it transfer over to the game.”