Is V.D. becoming the next T.O.?
Davis wants to be great. He thinks he is great. He's willing to pay the price to get there, but he's not going to change who he is along the way. Davis can't change who he is. It's like that with some of the great ones. It's also like that with some of the bad seeds. Davis, the team's offensive MVP of the spring and early summer, marches to his own beat and, well, the 49ers just better follow along whether they like it or not. He struts and prances on the field. He chirps at teammates at times when the noise becomes a little excessive. He gets in the face of defenders after making a tough snag in traffic, or after he burns a safety with his God-given speed and talent. He's demonstrative. He has some showboat in him. He borders on being a hyped young pro who needs to be put in his place. Is it all choreographed, part of a calculated plan for Vernon Davis to become the NFL's next colorful icon who pretty much does whatever he wants, pushes the envelope, and has coaches thinking damage control to keep him constrained? "No, it's just to get things going," Davis said of his practice antics, which seem minimal in comparison to what he actually might do in games. "Like, in the morning. You've got guys out, and it's the morning, not everybody's really in tune. So, I figure, I'm a guy that can just get everybody going. That's the type of guy you need on your team, somebody to push everybody and be a competitor." It can be said Davis sometimes pushes a little too hard. And the thing is, he doesn't seem to realize it. But his teammates do, and it rubs some of them the wrong way. The pushing and rubbing came to a head earlier this month during the 49ers' intra-squad scrimmage to conclude the opening week of training camp. Coming off the field after the first-team offense failed to score on its opening possession, some words were said between Davis and Larry Allen, not exactly the kind of guy you want to meet up with in a dark alley. Or a brightly illuminated alley, for that matter. But there Davis and Allen were seconds later, going at it and needing several teammates and coaches to pull them apart and keep them apart. Cooler heads quickly prevailed, but you could see the figurative red flags popping up all over the place. Whether or not Davis was at fault in that altercation, he clearly is alienating some of his teammates. And that's not what you want one of your best young offensive players - a guy that figures to have a lot of light on him this season - to be doing. Davis has always been an emotional player. That's not a bad thing. But he needs to learn constraint. He needs to step a little closer to the right side of the fine line. When asked his reaction to Davis "stoking up the defense," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said, "It doesn't bother me a lick, as long as you can back it up. I don't want to take any of the passion, any of the excitement, any of the adrenaline that he has, because Vernon's not going to back down from anybody. That's what you love about him. He's not intimidated by anybody, but at the same time, you've got to be smart. A guy who is as emotional as he is who gets excited, and he does a lot of talking, he has to be very careful." Nolan expounded upon that train of thought. "It means a lot to Vernon to make plays and to be a good player," he said. "I don't want to take that away from him. But at the same time, I'm always talking to Vernon about, ‘This is too far, this isn't.' That's a part of growing up, part of maturity. When guys are just emotional and they're all energized, like a Vernon, my concern is that someone is going to misunderstand that and take it a different way." Davis is at the point of his career where he still is an open canvas, still is impressionable, still is in the process of shaping his personality and how it relates to his conduct on and off the field. Terrell Owens, another player with all-world talent who went his own way as a 49er, used to be like that. For all he gave to the 49ers and accomplished on the field, Owens ended up being a cancer on the team, and that contributed to San Francisco's swift dive from prominence earlier this decade. Davis is no T.O. Yet. And both he and the 49ers need to keep it that way. "No, I've never compared myself to T.O.," Davis said. "We're two totally different people. He's a totally different guy than I am. As far as ability to play the game, that would be a compliment. But other than that, personality off the field, I would say no." Mark down that statement. Because, as he goes forward into this season and a NFL future with limitless possibilities, those are words Davis needs to both remember and live by.
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