Vernon Davis getting down his end zone act

The first time Vernon Davis struck paydirt as a 49er, he struck a pose mimicking the former 49er who made outlandish touchdown celebrations infamous. But that's as close to Terrell Owens' end zone antics San Francisco's exciting rookie TE plans to ever get. Davis envisions touching down in the end zone often with the 49ers this season, and he'll be ready with his own routine once he gets there.

"I like to play with excitement," Davis said this week while discussing topics ranging from touchdowns to T.O. to opening eyes and getting open in NFL secondaries with his unique blend of size and speed.

Davis plans to let the excitement flow when he gets in the end zone with the 49ers, and that could happen on a regular basis in 2005, since his touchdown reception against Dallas last week - the first of his career - represents half of San Francisco's passing touchdowns through three preseason games.

Davis also plans to conduct his scoring act with class. Disrespect and over-the-top behavior won't be part of his repertoire, Davis said, but that still will leave him plenty of room for spontaneous presentation.

"That's the way I play," Davis said. "That's my game. I'm going to get excited. I know in the league now you can't really do as much as you could before. But I'll come up with something."

After scoring against Dallas on just his second reception of the preseason, Davis came up with a takeoff on Owens' legendary touchdown aftermath during a game between the 49ers and Cowboys at Texas Stadium in Week 4 of the 2000 season.

For those not familiar with what went down in that game, it was a classic moment in T.O.-dom, perhaps the true beginning of the iconic caricature that Owens has become today.

After scoring on a three-yard pass from Jeff Garcia in the first quarter, Owens changed direction and sprinted toward the gigantic star that adorns the center of the Cowboys' home field. He then spread his arms wide and held them upward toward the heavens as the Dallas crowd roared uneasily. When the Cowboys responded with a touchdown 67 seconds later, Emmitt Smith charged to the midfield star, defiantly slammed the ball into the middle of it, then dropped to one knee and scowled at the entire 49ers sideline.

That was only prelude. When tempestuous T.O. scored again on a short touchdown pass from Garcia late in the fourth quarter, he repeated his star act, and this time all hell broke loose. Before Owens could reach toward the sky once more, he was leveled by Dallas safety George Teague, sparking a wild melee and madcap exchange of 49ers running into Cowboys.

Owens then was suspended for the next week's game against Arizona, beginning his downward spiral into enigmatic and provocative character.

Davis remembers Owens' debacle in Dallas, just like he remembers a lot of the post-touchdown celebrations and revelry he has seen in the NFL since then.

So when his moment came in the Dallas end zone last Saturday, Davis already had planned out his routine.

"I was doing what (Owens) did when they played Dallas," Davis said. "I was doing that to kind of make fun of him doing that like he did it. I thought about it ahead of time. But I wasn't going to run to the middle (of the field) and do it."

For the 49ers, the important thing was that Davis was in the end zone with the football in his hands, not what he did after getting there.

Though he has been slow to become prominent in the team's preseason passing attack, Davis has displayed excellent all-around development this summer. He has been steadily learning his place in the passing lanes, and his speed down the middle is attracting attention, so much so that a Cowboys linebacker came up to him at halftime and said, "You're as fast as I don't know what, 85!"

"They respect me because they probably haven't seen a tight end that can run like that," said Davis, who indicated his confidence that defenders can't cover him has only grown since he came to the 49ers.

"Every time I run a route I usually get open because of my speed," Davis continued. "I do it in practice. And you practice the way you play. That's my philosophy. When I go to a game, it's like practice. Because I do it all the time in practice. I'm getting open and catching passes."

But Davis also will be called upon to use his brawn as well as his athletic skill, and that's an area where he really appears to have made strides since training camp began in July.

"He's done a great job," coach Mike Nolan said of Davis' progress this summer. "The offensive guys continue to tell me that he is a heck of a blocker. I keep saying, ‘That's great, but I want to see the ball in his hands.' They go, ‘No, we already know that.' They're assuring me that he's a good ball player. He really is. There's no red flags on Vernon other than he just needs to play.

"So far, he's the real deal. Vernon goes zero to 60 pretty quick. He really does. No lie, that's one of his strengths. But even the plays that he doesn't get the ball, he always sprints down as if he had the ball. He goes to the end. He does the things that a 49er should do, the Jerry Rice kind of thing. He's doing that, and that's kind of neat to see."

Nolan envisions it will be pretty neat seeing what Davis does when he has the football in his hands in the end zone, too, and even though the coach said he'd have a talk with Davis after the Dallas game about "acting like he's been there before" when he scores touchdowns, Davis said that meeting never turned into the lecture many thought it might be.

"He just asked me what kind of celebration that was," Davis said.

Davis - and the 49ers - hopes he gets asked that question a lot this season. And only Davis will know the answer, which figures to be a little bit different every time.

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