NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) In middle school, Hakeem Nicks got to wear the No. 9 of Steve McNair while playing quarterback for the Titans. Now 27, the veteran wide receiver is trying to earn a job with the same team in the NFL.
The Titans signed Nicks to a one-year deal in April, bringing the former first-round draft pick to his third different team in as many seasons. The competition to start opposite wide receiver Kendall Wright is pretty open, giving Nicks a chance to revive his career.
''It would mean a lot, but at the same time I just want to focus on the team,'' Nicks said. ''It's not about me. It's the team and this organization, and I'm going to do whatever I need to do to make sure I'm top of my game and contribute to the team the best way possible.''
The Titans also signed Harry Douglas this offseason and drafted Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round of the draft. Justin Hunter is another former second-round draft pick going into his third season. Through the first week of training camp, the Titans have been rotating receivers around looking for the best fit.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Nicks has made some plays early in camp, and the Titans are looking now for consistency.
''The spring was a little bit of a learning experience for him,'' Whisenhunt said Wednesday. ''He knew he needed to pick it up when he got to camp, so he started well. I think the challenge is going to be making sure he continues with that.''
Nicks credits some of his slower spring to being a bit heavier than he likes. He spent last season with the Indianapolis Colts who asked him to play a bit heavier to go across the middle, so Nicks was around 212 pounds. Now in training camp, Nicks said he feels good weighing about 206 or 207 pounds.
He cramped up a bit Saturday in the Tennessee heat and had to go into the locker room.
''Honestly, I'm still just feeling out the system and making sure I'm on top of what I need to do to make sure I'm at the best I can be to contribute to the team the best way possible,'' Nicks said. ''It's still early in camp. We've still got some more practices to go. I feel like I'm going to go uphill, keep staying strong and staying positive.''
Back in 2009, Nicks actually visited the Titans before the NFL draft coming out of North Carolina. The Titans never had a chance to select Nicks with the New York Giants picking the wide receiver at No. 29, leaving Tennessee to draft wide receiver Kenny Britt at No. 30.
Nicks won a Super Bowl ring with the Giants after his third season where he had his first 1,000-yard receiving year with 11 touchdown catches. He followed that up with a career-high 1,152 yards receiving in 2011, but the Giants let him go after Nicks caught only three TD passes in 2012 and 2013 combined.
He signed a one-year deal with Indianapolis and played all 16 games for the first time in his career. He caught 38 passes for 405 yards and four TDs. Now he's in Tennessee with 349 career catches for 5,027 yards receiving with 31 TDs.
''He's always saying he's trying to revive his career and stuff,'' Wright said. ''He's bringing leadership, he's out there grinding and working every day.''
One thing's for sure. Nicks keeps working with some quality quarterbacks going from Eli Manning to Andrew Luck and now catching passes from Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
''I'm looking forward to being out there playing with him,'' Nicks said.
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