Tahir Whitehead is a prime example of why it’s tough to discern anything from OTAs.

Last spring, in the weeks after the Lions traded up to take him in the fifth round of the NFL draft, Whitehead looked like a star. His speed and power stood out even on a field with some of the world’s best athletes.

And then when the pads came on in July, Whitehead, by his own admission, struggled.

“That was my downfall,” Whitehead said Saturday at the Nate Burleson-Stephen Tulloch charity softball game. “In OTAs, I was pretty good and then, when we put the pads on in training camp, that was my drop-off.

“It was just playing out of position. Playing from a nine technique (in college and) then playing off the ball (in the NFL) and being able to see different things, I just didn’t feel comfortable.”

Whitehead, 23, is back looking good this spring, but you won’t hear the second-year linebacker signing his own praise yet.

“I won’t be able to really tell anything until we put the pads back on,” he said.

Whitehead is in a three-way battle for the starting left outside linebacker job, which won’t be decided until training camp.

Travis Lewis has taken first-team reps during OTAs open to the media the last three weeks, and Ashlee Palmer and Whitehead also have worked with the No. 1 defense.

Palmer, 27, is the veteran of the group, a standout special-teams player who has his most realistic chance at a starting job. Lewis, 25, is quick and smart, a four-year starter at Oklahoma who, like Whitehead, saw limited action as a rookie.