No sweet dreams before sweet deal for Davis

After a sleepless night of dollar signs running through his head, Vernon Davis ran a quick corner route into the 49ers locker room Friday morning as his teammates stretched and warmed up before the first practice of training camp. Davis emerged when drills began as the highest-paid tight end in the NFL, then immediately went to work as the Niners began camp with their entire roster on the field.

It took an all-night negotiating session between Davis' agents and 49ers officials to get the highly-regarded tight end prospect on the field for the opening practice of camp. But the deal got done, the Niners began training camp with all their draft picks signed for the fourth consecutive year, and Davis became a rich young man overnight.

But not without plenty of restless moments during a late evening/early morning of waiting at the team hotel near 49ers headquarters.

"I was stressed at first going into (early Friday), because my agent called and told me it wasn't done yet," Davis said late Friday morning. "But then I got a call saying I'm going to like what they got."

That call came at 5:15 a.m. Since Davis finally had drifted off into semi-sleep around 1:30 a.m., he didn't exactly get a chance to enjoy sweet dreams before signing his sweet deal.

After fine-tuning the language of the contract, Davis signed it just before San Francisco's 9 a.m. practice was scheduled to begin. The five-year deal is worth more than $23 million – it could eventually pay Davis as much as $25 million – and makes the University of Maryland product the highest-paid tight end in the league before he even plays a snap.

Davis' $4.6 million average salary tops the deals of the NFL's best (and highest-paid) veteran tight ends, including Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez, New York's Jeremy Shockey, Atlanta's Alge Crumpler, Baltimore's Todd Heap and Dallas' Jason Witten, who make between $4.14 million and $4.5 million annually

The image of Davis sprinting out to practice before the opening horn sounded was a welcome site to a team that hopes he'll give the NFL's worst offense of 2005 an immediate lift.

"It was kind of last minute, him running in here and changing while we're out there warming up, and then him running out to be there," quarterback Alex Smith said. "But it's exciting. It says a lot about him. He really wanted to get out there. I talked to Vernon two days ago, and to see the competitiveness and hunger in him that he wants to be out here, he wants to be part of this, he wants to be good – that's exciting."

The word for Davis might have been relief as much as excitement. Last year, his agent, Ethan Lock, staged a 10-day training camp holdout with another of Lock's first-round clients, Erasmus James, before James finally signed his rookie deal with the Minnesota Vikings.

"I told my agent I wanted to hurry up and get out there," Davis said. "I wasn't going to hold out for 10 days – I wasn't going to allow him to do that. That's too long. Two days is too long. I just told him he had to get it done. That's one thing I took into consideration, that he's working for me, I'm not working for him. He's got to do what I tell him to do.

"I just wanted to be out here and just playing football and be with the guys. Because me, I can't stand missing no days. It really affects me if I miss days. So, I'm just glad to get it done. I want to make sure I'm getting what I deserve, but at the same time, I also want to get out here and show the guys that I do want to be out here. It's not me that's trying to hold myself out. I want to be out here as much as they want to be out here."

And to be sure, the 49ers wanted Davis to be out there. He could be a main man in their offensive attack this year even as a rookie. In fact, they're expecting him to be.

So is Davis.

"The game was a lot faster when I first got here (in the spring) and I had to get adjusted," Davis said. "But I feel like I'm adjusted now. I feel like I can bring another weapon, another threat, to this team – a guy that has the ability to make plays, game after game. That's just my mentality. I just want to do well and be the best. So I'm going to compete and I'm not going to give up."

Niners coach Mike Nolan lauded the support of owner John York and the efforts of a negotiating team that included Scot McCloughan, Lal Heneghan and Paraag Marathe in getting Davis signed and in camp before practices began.

As with the team's other first-rounder Manny Lawson – who signed a five-year, $8.5 million deal late Thursday evening – it's important that the top young players the 49ers will be depending on in 2006 are on the field and practicing from the get-go this summer.

"That's real important to have those guys out there, because those young players have to play for us, and play early," Nolan said.

And that made an early morning of busy activity worth it for both Davis and the Niners.

"I'm pleased with the deal, but I'm not really worried about it anymore," Davis said. "I'm just focused on football now."

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