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Thursday, October 16, 2003
Calico starting to give more than glimpse of his potential


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tyrone Calico is having some growing pains, but the Titans don't mind being patient.

The second-round draft pick out of Middle Tennessee dropped a would-be touchdown pass in each of the past two games. But he also has seven receptions for 184 yards in the past two, and he's averaging 22.4 yards per catch, making him an important part of Tennessee's offense when it tries to hand Carolina its first loss on Sunday.

"He's using his size and ability now because he's getting a feel of the game," quarterback Steve McNair said. "When you see young guys getting a feel of the game this early, you can bet your dollar he's going to make good catches for you."

That's why McNair quickly forgave Calico for dropping a slant pass in the end zone at New England on Oct. 5. He came right back to him for a 2-point conversion on the drive.

Last week against Houston, Calico had a defender beaten, and McNair dropped a 35-yard pass into his hands in the end zone. Calico, worried about getting his feet inbounds, dropped the ball.

A few plays later, McNair threw to the rookie on third-and-9. Calico didn't catch the ball, but the quarterback said the receiver still has his confidence.

"He's a great kid. He's young. He's going to make mistakes, and we know that. It's not like I'm going to shy away from him," McNair said.

Calico has the team's confidence because he works hard at his routes, and he spends extra time after nearly every practice catching passes.

Calico is a rare mix of size (6-foot-4, 222 pounds) and speed (4.34 in the 40). He is athletic enough to move from linebacker to receiver in college, where he also played a year of basketball.

He lasted until the 60th pick overall because there were questions about his catching ability.

"We've joked about it. We've talked about it. We've said, 'Look, he's going to catch eight out of 10 balls.' He needs to catch 10 out of 10," coach Jeff Fisher said.

Calico hasn't started as quickly as fellow rookie receiver Anquan Boldin of Arizona, who leads the NFC with 39 receptions and leads the NFL with 592 yards receiving. Houston's rookie, Andre Johnson, is tied for eighth in the AFC with 28 catches.

But unlike those two teams, the Titans don't need Calico full-time.

They are deep at receiver with Derrick Mason, who has 39 catches for 524 yards. Justin McCareins and Drew Bennett have done their share to help McNair lead the NFL with 1,601 yards passing.

That leaves Calico as the fourth option and the deep threat.

He caught three passes for 92 yards in the loss to New England, including a 45-yarder, and he had four for 92 yards against Houston. He also showed he could pick up extra yardage with two or three Texans trying to tackle him.

"I'm just a rookie coming in trying to get my name known out there," Calico said.

The Titans don't think they'll be waiting too much longer.