Ready for Primetime

An unusually crowded locker room didn't bother Rashied Davis as he prepared for Wednesday afternoon's practice. As far as Davis is concerned the more reporters the better.

"I'd hate to see it empty," Davis said. "That would mean that this team wasn't doing all that well. To me, the fact that so many reporters are here to talk to us means that we are a good story. Success usually has that effect."

Davis, who played for the San Jose Saber Cats in the Arena League for the last four years before joining the Bears this season, was his former team's Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year after setting records with 44 touchdowns and 264 points. And although he doesn't see himself equaling those stats in the NFL, he does feel that he can make an impact for Chicago's return threat.

"I have speed, I have a good eye for the field, and I can hold on to the ball," Davis said. "I think that those are all important qualities in any return guy."

Holding on to the ball is exactly what the Bears need right now after Bobby Wade's problem holding onto the ball. Davis said that was the first thing he thought of when Lovie Smith told him he would be going into the Tampa Bay game in Wade's place.

"I watched Bobby on his first return and was concerned about him," Davis said. "He's a good player and I don't understand what has happened to him recently. When he bobbled that one return, I had the feeling that my number would be called. It was a close game with the outcome very much in doubt. I knew that we couldn't' risk any fumbles and I thought I'd be asked to go in. Turned out I was right."

Although Lovie Smith is still keeping his decision about the punt returner private, he hasn't offered any ringing endorsements of Wade.

At a listed 5-foot-9, 180-pound Davis isn't the most physically imposing player on the field, but he makes up for his modest size with a complete lack of fear and an overwhelming desire to succeed.

"I grew up in some fairly difficult circumstances," said Davis, whose father was murdered in a botched holdup attempt. "I was able to turn things around. You can be certain that I take absolutely nothing for granted. I understand the importance of seizing and opportunity and doing my best with it. This is that kind of a chance. I want to be a starter in the NFL. That's been my dream for years. I'll do anything that I can to reach that goal."

But Davis also understands that production is the only factor that will ensure his spot on the roster. For help in that area, he turns to fellow special teamers such as LB Brendon Ayanbadejo.

"Brendon, he's my man," Davis said smiling at Ayanbadejo who was sitting in the adjoining locker. "I'm telling him, I'm telling all of the defensive guys that if I take a return to the house, it's a first class dinner for everybody, wine, champagne, steak completely on me."

For Davis, the potential for the kind of success that could lead to a permanent spot on the starting roster lies in his ability to trust that his teammates will aid his learning curve while protecting him on the field.

"In the Arena League I made the tough catches and the hard returns all of the time, but in the NFL, the skill level is noticeably higher," Davis said. "The guys who will be coming down the field to flatten me are bigger and they're faster than I'm accustomed to. So although I've been in pro ball for four years, in a sense I am a rookie right now.

"I need total concentration on the ball to complete the play so I have to place absolute trust in my guys to protect me. Then once I have the ball, I count on them to make the holes and get me downfield. When we work well together, that's when special teams can make a difference in the game."

When asked for his thoughts about the upcoming game against Green Bay, the usually lighthearted Davis turned serious for a moment.

"It's a rivalry and that's the bottom line," he said. "You never take a game like that for granted. I don't think the success or failure of either team so far this season will have much if any bearing on the outcome. I've watched the film, strange things happen when these teams play. We just have to be sure that the breaks go our way."

When it came to making a prediction on the game, Davis decided to dream big.

"It's all good. The Bears will dominate, I'll get my TD, and dinner's on me," Davis laughed.


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