Rod Davis lost weight and got married to a woman named Blossom in April, but don't think that Davis is going soft.
During the opening practice with pads in training camp, Davis delivered a crushing blow to running back Mewelde Moore … and then let him know about it. The bell-ringer wasn't an accident.
"It was deliberate," Davis said with a smile. "Even though he is my teammate, there is no love lost. I love the guy and I've been playing against Mewelde for four years in college. Coach said every job is open, so I'm just coming out here to compete every day and try to find my role, whatever that role is. … I had the opportunity and I seized the moment."
Moore had been talking trash about a big game he played against Southern Miss in college, and Davis acknowledge Moore's multi-dimensional productivity in that contest. He said Moore had almost 200 yards, but he also told Moore he was going to get him back if he had the opportunity.
"I'm just going out here trying to prove myself," Davis said. "My first two years were a learning experience. It's like a fresh start with these new coaches coming in. They don't know any of us players and they only brought in a handful, so it's a great opportunity for me. Everybody is out to prove what they can do day in and day out. There are no preconceived notions that this guy is going to be the starter."
The University of Southern Mississippi's all-time leading tackler (526) has experienced many changes in his personal and professional life since the calendar flipped to 2006, but he is welcoming them all.
In his professional life, the biggest difference is the change in coaches and schemes, something that seems to be a right of passage each year with the Vikings. After two years of Ted Cottrell as the defensive coordinator (back-to-back seasons was something of an anomaly at the time), Mike Tomlin has stepped into that role. With Tomlin came a change in scheme as well.
So does a player like Davis, who is trying to develop his professional career, ever get frustrated with all the coaching changes along the way?
"Not if they give me the opportunity I have this year. To be quite honest, I don't think I really had that the first two years. Even though I was immature a lot of times, I believe still I didn't have the opportunity to show what I could do," he said.
"I learned a lot off of Sam (Cowart) and Keith Newman. I know football and they showed me how to watch tape, but I think the biggest thing is they showed me how to take care of my body. I was coming from college and I thought I could do this and do that. I would get in the ice tub and take ice, but now I know it's a long season and I have to do that."
Cowart and Newman, both starters last year and favorites of Cottrell, are gone. Cowart signed with Houston and Newman with Miami. They weren't considered good fits with Tomlin's new Tampa-2 defense.
The same might be said for Davis, who entered the league considered a strong tackler with limited coverage skills. But Davis begs to differ on the perception that he might not be a great fit for the Tampa-2 defense.
"I lot of people say I'm not suited but, shoot, I believe I am. I dropped the weight, I feel my quickness, my speed, is up to par," he said.
"If you look back on the play (when he dropped Moore), I had to cover a lot of ground on that. I was playing the Mike (in the nickel). In the Cover-2 system, I took my drop and I covered the ground."
He was able to cover that ground and improve his quickness by heeding the advice of the new coaching staff. He was asked to drop weight and did – about 10 to 15 pounds since his rookie year. Now at 235 pounds, he is more suited to playing in a defense that demands quicker linebackers.
"(The coaches) wanted all of us (linebackers) to lose weight. Just like any Cover-2, they come in and … you remember Chicago a few years ago. Even (Brian) Urlacher, one of the best linebackers, Lovie Smith asked him to lose weight. Everybody knows their role and all the backups came in in great shape. I know I'm at tip-top, so I'm just ready to prove myself."
In the base defense, the coaches are allowing him to work strictly at strongside linebacker. When it comes to the nickel defense, he's working at middle linebacker. And while he hasn't worked his way into consistent reps with the first-team defense, he is hoping he can make some more big hits and show the coaches he deserves a chance.
"They say they're going to play the best 11, so I'm going to come out every day and coach always says, ‘Put it on tape,'" said Davis, who has 17 tackles on defense in two years but 34 tackles on special teams (third on the team each of the last two years).
"Every year I know that special teams is going to give me that niche because I've got good size and good speed. It's going to be a real big year for me. I think 5-0 is going to have a big year, either on special teams or doing it on defense. Either-or, it's going to be a real big year for me."
For Mewelde Moore, Davis just became a real big headache.
Davis Drops Weight with Something to Prove
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