NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans rookie linebacker Rashaan Evans paced back and forth as he watched the defense swarm to the football like a pack of wolves in their Week 2 win against the Houston Texans. Evans had been a full participant during the week leading up to the game and was ready to go if called upon.
As it turned out, Evans played one snap, and that came on special teams.
Even though it was tough to watch from the sideline, the Titans' first-round pick insists he wasn't frustrated and looks forward to possibly playing his first defensive reps against the Jacksonville Jaguars this week (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Evans has the right mindset as he waits his turn.
"I am not frustrated because of my process -- I've had to wait before," he said. "My motto is always to just, 'Work while you wait.' When the opportunity presents itself, you seize it. Regardless of when I get in, the number one thing is to ball. I am hoping to get this opportunity this week."
The "work while you wait" motto comes from experience. ESPN listed Evans as the No. 4 recruit in Alabama and the No. 30 player in the Southeast Region as a high school senior. Despite the accolades, he was not an immediate starter for Alabama coach Nick Saban's defense.
Evans didn't become a regular contributor until his junior year when he worked alongside former high school teammate Reuben Foster. When Foster moved on to the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, it was Evans who stepped in to lead the defense as they marched to a College Football Playoff National Championship last season.
Evans had plans to impact the Titans defense immediately. A hamstring injury suffered during the first week of training camp delayed those plans, but he refused to allow the time away from the field to keep him from making progress.
Veteran linebacker Will Compton spent time with Evans, helping him grasp the defensive playbook. Being able to slow things down and learn the scheme in the classroom helped Evans get ready in case his number gets called.
"For me, I am just looking at the game and getting mental reps," Evans said. "I was picturing myself [as] if I was in there. You can be called in at any time. That's the thing about the NFL; you can't ever think that you are not going get in there."
The mental reps are good, but Titans coach Mike Vrabel wants to see Evans carry out his assignments in practice consistently before he can be trusted on game day. Vrabel's approach to making rookies prove themselves rather than being "given" a starting spot because of their draft status is in line with the thought process of his former head coach, Bill Belichick. Factoring the missed time only makes Evans' path to playing time a more difficult one.
"Rashaan has to prove it in practice," Vrabel said. "I don't think he's had more than four practices since he's hurt his hamstring. He's willing and in tune with what we are asking him to do. It's completely different to see where you fit on calls on film for four or five weeks, however long he was out. It becomes redundant when it's over and over when you're just watching film. You have to get out there and physically be involved to see the bodies and understand the plays."
Making his debut against Jacksonville would be an excellent opportunity for Evans, because he'll get to play on the same field as Jaguars safety and former college teammate Ronnie Harrison. They have shared some trash talk.
"We've been going back and forth at each other, and it has been great," Evans said. "I told my dog, Ronnie, 'If I get in there, somebody is getting touched.'"