Davis has Experience to Draw Upon

Lake Forest - Rashied Davis might be considered a rookie in the NFL, but the first year cornerback and kick returner already has four years of playoff experience, including two Arena League championships with San Jose Saber Cats. For Davis, the build up of emotions leading up to this weekend's game seem remarkably similar to what he remembers from his previous trip to the postseason.

"It's the kind of situation where you feel nervous, but you can't let yourself get carried away. After all, it's just another game, an important one though," Davis said. "I have learned to channel my nervous energy in a positive direction. Once I am on the field, the adrenaline starts pumping and I am bouncing around. It's great to have that happen when you are at a speed position like cornerback."

Davis was a two-time team leader in all-purpose yards for the Saber Cats. He also earned the team's MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards in 2005 after setting team records with 44 touchdowns and 244 points. But for Davis, it was the considerable playing time each week that he thinks will translate well into the NFL playoff picture.

"I've heard that in the playoff the intensity of the games is much higher, that you expend more energy. People play harder. That should fit well for me," Davis said. "In Arena ball, I went both ways and was running just about every play. Endurance was never a problem so if these final games are faster and more intense, that's what I do best."

The increased level of fan interest as the playoffs approach has been obvious for even a reserve like Davis.

"If people recognize you, they'll stop you on the street offering encouragement," Davis said. "That's great. It means a lot. I think playing at home will be an advantage since our fans really get into the game. Home games in the postseason where a bid advantage with the Saber Cats. Those arena stadiums could get so loud it was almost impossible to think. But that was all part of the fun."

Davis is hoping for an increased role against the Panthers.

"I hope that I get in as a starting kick returner," Davis said. "That's been discussed but nothing is set yet. I'll take any opportunity I can get with this team. In Minneapolis I was in on both sides of the ball. That was a blast. I'm not sure that is a realistic possibility this weekend, but if I get the opportunity, I'd love to do it."

So far this season, Davis has 11 returns for 251 yards and an average return of 22.8 yards. He is certain that he can improve on that total given the opportunity.

"The more I'm in there, the more I can do," Davis said. "My technique is getting better each game. It's a matter of experience and of taking everything I learned in the Arena league and translating it into the NFL."

From his days in Arena ball, Davis understands the importance of winning a playoff game in order to gain respect within the league.

"You're not just impressing the fans if you win, but the other players around the league as well," Davis said. "If you don't get the postseason wins, then people will just say you were good against weaker opponents, even if that wasn't the case. So yes, I'd say it's very important for us to come out on top. There's definitely satisfaction for the team picked to finish 32nd in the league making it this far. But to really legitimize things in people's minds, we have to go through the playoffs."

With two evenly matched teams, field position will play a major factor in the outcome.

"The importance of the return game can't be overemphasized," Davis said. "That sets up everything for the offense."

Whether or not Davis is a part of that on Sunday remains to be seen.

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