Get your Freak on

Updated: October 9, 2003, 3:14 PM ET
ESPN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jevon Kearse strolled through the Tennessee Titans locker room Wednesday singing quietly to himself, "Oh, yes, they call him The Freak."

Oh, yes, the defensive end who set a rookie record for sacks and played his way to three Pro Bowls is serving notice that he is back to his speed-rushing, sacking ways after being limited to four games in 2002 because of a broken left foot.

Kearse, 27, is in the final year of his contract and he's off to his best start with 4.5 sacks in five games. He had two against New England last week, matching his total for 2002.

But the man nicknamed "The Freak" for his physical abilities on the field insists he's focused only on this season and helping the Titans return to the playoffs.

"I'm not worried about any personal accolades right now, and the contract situation will work its way out. As long as I'm playing, it'll be good for this team," Kearse said.

Kearse wanted a new long-term contract before the season started, but the Titans wanted to wait and see if he had healed from a second surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot that had limited him most of the offseason.

Contract negotiations are continuing, and agent Drew Rosenhaus said he tells Kearse after every game that he is making his job much easier.

"This is not a surprise. This is what we have come to expect from Jevon," Rosenhaus said. "It was just a matter of him getting back to his true form and good health, and he's obviously off to a very good start. I can tell the best is yet to come."

Kearse's injury had prompted many people to leave him off lists of the top defensive ends in the NFL even though he was one of just three men to post double-digit sacks in each of his first three seasons, joining Reggie White and the late Derrick Thomas in that elite group.

The snub did not go unnoticed.

Cornerback Samari Rolle sees his friend determined to prove doubters wrong, especially since Kearse had shown what he was capable of when healthy.

"He's going to be much better this year because of the fact that people have written him off. He's got a chip on his shoulder, he's really hard to stop," Rolle said.

Defensive line coach Jim Washburn said he didn't understand why Kearse was ignored this offseason. He also thinks The Freak can play better even with 26 tackles and six quarterback pressures so far.

"I don't think all of the rust is off yet," Washburn said. "He is only going to get better as the season goes along."

Kearse has benefited from the attention being given to Kevin Carter, who is off to his best start since being traded to the Titans in 2001. He has three sacks and a team-high nine quarterback pressures playing both end and tackle.

Carlos Hall, who had eight sacks last season in Kearse's absence, and tackle Robaire Smith each have a sack for a team currently tied for second in the NFL with 14. The Titans have had three or more sacks in four of their first five games.

Coach Jeff Fisher said Kearse's challenge now will be to handle the increased attention he is receiving as teams again try to double-team him with tight ends and running backs.

That's all right with Kearse.

"I've just got to make some plays. They pay a lot of attention to me, then someone else has to take advantage of it," he said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index