LB Davis Learned By Getting Cut Loose

When the Vikings released linebacker Rod Davis before the season began, he learned that roster spots aren't just given to reserve players in the NFL. Eventually, he got another chance in the second half of the season and became one of the leaders on special teams. That could help him as he prepares for free agency, he says.

Linebacker Rod Davis doesn't need an alarm clock. He got his professional wake-up call on Sept. 2, 2006.

That was the NFL's deadline for teams to trim their roster to the league-mandated 53 players. It was also the day Davis fully comprehended the fragile career of NFL players.

After two seasons with the Vikings, the former Southern Mississippi standout linebacker was on the waiver wire and looking for work. He didn't realize every game of the preseason was a tryout, even if he had been with the Vikings for two years (albeit with a different coaching staff).

"I didn't see that part my first two years here, but now I know that every game is an audition for a job," Davis said. "It was really a blessing in disguise because I take nothing for granted now. Every opportunity now I try to go out there and make plays and do something to show up and put it on tape."

Davis missed the first four weeks of the 2006 season before the Carolina Panthers signed him. He said his sudden release from the Vikings shocked not only him but teams around the league, according to the information he was able to gather from his agent.

"A team kind of charts who is going to be released throughout the preseason, and I was surprised how they set up who they were going to take off the wire. I wasn't in nobody's plans because nobody thought I would be released," Davis said. "It was a big shocker to me, and teams were calling my agent thinking there was something wrong with me, thinking I was hurt."

He wasn't, but it took a month for him to catch on with the Panthers … and three weeks later they released him as well.

The Vikings re-signed him, and he played in the final seven games of the season. With only nine games with Minnesota to his credit, he still finished fourth on the team with 12 special teams tackles, according to the coaches' film review.

Maybe it was the fact that he realized how many players are expendable or maybe it was the fact that he knew he was going to be a restricted free agent in March, but whatever the reason, Davis took advantage of his opportunities on special teams.

"Even with me being cut and coming back, (free agency) is tough because you build relationships. I've got buddies from back in college who always talk about it, like, ‘There ain't nothing like the guys from football, the guys you'll be in the locker room with every day. Those friends don't come by each and every day.' You build relationships and try to make them long-term, but this business is like, you're here one day and gone the next. You've just got to live and move on. I've got a family that I've got to worry about. That's what my focus is on. Whatever is in line for me, I know the good Lord is on my side."

Davis said the hardest aspects of spending the month of September out of football were not knowing where he'd end up and worrying about providing for his wife and child. He was re-signed by the Vikings just as the family had started to search for a house in his hometown of Gulfport, Miss.

This time around in free agency, he feels more prepared for it.

"I guess I've been around the block. It's really nothing. I take each week since I've been here day by day, week by week. Whatever happens happens," Davis said. "But I'd love to be back in a Vikings uniform. This is where I started, but I still know that this is a business. Everybody is going to do what's best for the team and the organization.

"I learned a lot through not playing, learned a lot about life and a lot about the business. You can look at it as bad, but it was a good opportunity for me to sit back and learn about this business."

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