Edison grad Lavelle Hawkins has had an eventful few months. In May, the receiver was released after five seasons by the Titans, the team that drafted him out of Cal in 2008. Just days later, he signed a two-year deal with the Patriots, but that didn’t work out and he was released in July. Days later, the 49ers, who needed warm bodies with the rash of injuries they had at receiver, picked him up. Hawkins showed flashes of brillance and poor judgment during his time with the Niners and was cut after the team’s final preseason game. He waited by the phone and worked out for some other teams, including the Falcons, during the first four weeks of the regular season.
Finally, the Chargers called Hawkins’ agent after they placed receiver Malcolm Floyd on injured reserve (neck). Hawkins signed a non-guaranteed contract with San Diego, meaning the Chargers can release him at any time. But at least Hawkins is on an NFL roster and has an opportunity to make a living playing the game he loves.
The NFL is an unforgiving business, something the 27-year-old knows only too well.
“I wish people would understand it isn’t just football,” Hawkins said from San Diego on Tuesday. “It’s a business. There are all kinds of factors that go into it.”
Hawkins told me earlier this week he wasn’t cut by San Francisco because of the three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties he received against the Vikings in the third preseason game for A) taunting (penalty was declined) and removing his helmet after a 105-yard kickoff return for a TD, and B) “head-butting” opposing linebacker Desmond Bishop, Hawkins’ former teammate at City College of San Francisco and Cal, after catching a 22-yard pass.
“First of all, I didn’t even see (Bishop) when I came up. I was doing the Deion (Sanders) thing,” Hawkins said. “And me taking my helmet off, I was running to the side of the field. I wasn’t on the field and I thought I was fine. I didn’t think nothing of it, but they flagged us.
“Just for the record, to all the people who do not know football, I did not get released because of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.”
The following week, Hawkins made a spectacular catch and run for a TD against the Chargers in the 49ers’ final preseason game. When the roster was trimmed to 53, Hawkins’ name was on the cutting room floor.
“I don’t know. It’s not my call,” Hawkins said. “All I did was do the best that I could do with the opportunity that was given to me. That was all you could do. I’ve been around this league for a while and I definitely understand the business side of it. I didn’t take it personally. I’ve been a Niners fan my whole life. I thank the 49ers for giving me the opportunity to play.”
Hawkins said the Patriots, who didn’t exactly have a roster flush with receivers in the offseason either, released him because the player and coach did not mesh.
“I have nothing bad to say about New England,” Hawkins said. “(Coach Bill Belichick) has a great program there. I don’t think it was a good fit with my personality. Nothing personal with coach Belichick. I think he’s doing an awesome job with the young guys. It just wasn’t a good fit for me.”
Those rooting for Lavelle, including your’s truly, hope San Diego is a better fit.