Prior to the beginning of the first mini-camp this year, I had the opportunity to personally chat with Seahawks fullback Chris Davis. I spoke to Chris as a fan, not as a writer and I listened as he told me how great it felt when he found out that he had made the final roster as a rookie in the 2003 season, and subsequently how horrible it hurt when his left knee gave out during the first game of the regular season. I listened as he told me how hard he was working to rehab the knee and bring it back to full strength before the beginning of the season. It was at that time that I became personally involved in the story. I began to care about Chris, just as a friend or even a brother would watch the progress of his little brother.
I became so involved with Chris’s comeback that I decided to write an article about him, simply because I wanted everyone else to understand why this kid was going to make it. My selfish hope was that I would eventually feel vindicated in investing so much emotion in one player.
However, as the first mini-camps opened, the team decided that Chris wasn’t ready. I read the reports of how much it killed him to not be on the field with his brothers, and how much he was looking forward to training camp so he finally could put the injury behind him.
Training camp began and Chris was finally ready. He was having a great camp, showing the coaches and the other players that he was finally back to his old self. His play spoke for itself as the hot topic in camp became his ability to rise above incumbent Heath Evans on the depth chart and once again make the final roster. He was finally beginning to trust his knee again.
This is where I once again was able to speak briefly with Chris. I knew that after writing the story about him that I should separate myself from the story and remain unbiased, but I couldn’t. I talked with him again at camp, asked him how he was doing and found myself becoming proud as he smiled and said that he was doing great. He felt great, the knee felt good, and he was ready to prove me right (his own words while speaking about my article).
Life isn’t fair. It became clear again in this preseason game.
I watched on Thursday night as Chris was lining up on special teams for the first kickoff of the evening. It was noteworthy simply because he had not been on the field at all in the first half (Heath Evans had started and played the entire game on offense so far). I watched intently as the ball was kicked, and on this kickoff, he made a couple of side-to-side “juke” moves to try and get around the blocker, but the blocker wasn’t fooled and locked on to Chris, driving him back and away from the play. It wasn’t his best performance, but I was happy to see him get some field time again. In fact, I made the comment to my seat neighbor that I was happy to see him on the field with the first team special teams unit because this is how he made the team last year.
It was now time for the second-half kickoff. Once again, the Hawks lined up right in front of where we sat in the North end zone, and I focused on Chris. The ball was kicked and he began running down the field. As he approached his blocker, he once again started the same side-to-side move to try and get around the blocker, but after the first side move, he dropped. The blocker never even touched him. As Chris fell to the ground clutching his knee, my heart stopped. I kept saying “C’mon Chris, get up” but I had seen other players on TV that were running and dropped to the ground without being touched, in every case a serious knee injury. I knew even before his teammates began circling him that it had happened.
I saw Kerry Carter come
over to his side; Carter later said that he knew. “I looked back and it
was him. Right then, I was like, 'I hope it's not his knee. I hope it's not
I saw Heath Evans run to him immediately. "I just wanted to be the first one by his side," Evans said. "Because that man ... we've been so much time in prayer together and I've really been lifting him up."
But I didn’t feel anything but numbness. My little brother, my good friend, my hero, the one man that I had invested all of my feelings into, was hurt. His left knee and its ACL that had been torn in the prior season, was fine. It was his right knee that had given out.
I was both proud and angry when he picked himself off the field and hopped on one leg to the sidelines. His pride prevented him from waiting for the trainers to come to him in the field and carrying him off as had happened in the prior year. This time, he knew what had happened, but he was going off the field on his terms, the only terms he had left. I was proud of him for this show of defiance towards this unrelenting foe, but as his teammates began encircling him as he sat on the sidelines, it was easy to see that each of them knew. Chris knew. He had been through it before.
The game became nothing to me; my focus was on the sidelines. I watched as they loaded him onto the cart. I watched as those fans in the front rows cheered for him as he went by. I watched as Chris left the field far before his time for the second year in a row. I couldn’t help but think that this may be the last time I ever see Chris Davis. NFL teams don’t sign backup players with 3 ACL injuries. Very few individuals have ever beaten those odds. I struggle to regain hope for Chris that he may be one of those few.
But as he left the field on the cart and entered the tunnel, I was happy that the game was going on so that nobody around me would see me wiping the tears from my eyes.
You have a year left on
your rookie contract, Chris. Make me believe again.
Mark Olsen writes frequently for Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send him feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.