San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis is entering a possible "make or break" season this year. If the 49ers want to take the next step forward towards a division title and a playoff berth in the ever-so changing of the guard of the NFL, Davis's performance will be key.
Flashback to last season's Week Eight game against the Seattle Seahawks. Late in the third quarter, Davis is ordered off the field and back to the locker by then interim 49ers head coach Mike Singletary for slapping a Seahawks player's helmet, earning the 49ers a personal foul. As Davis is leaving the field, he pretends to not know why Singletary was upset.
Remember Singletary's postgame rant?
"I will not tolerate players that think it's about them," Singletary said. "We cannot make decisions that cost the team, and then come off the sideline and its nonchalant. No...I'd rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we have to do something else rather than play with 11 when I know that person is not sold out to be part of this team."
"I told him that he would do a better job for us right now taking a shower and coming back and watching the game than going out on the field, simple as that," Singletary said.
In the end, Davis' penalty became costly and the 49ers got ran out of their own building losing 34-13. The loss was the 49ers' fifth straight in a season that turned into a 7-9 finish. After the game, Davis tried to have a conversation with Singletary, but Singletary was still too hot to speak.
"I don't think I did anything wrong," Davis said. "If the coach thinks I did something wrong, I have to listen to him. He's the boss. I don't know what was going on. I already know about Coach Singletary. He wants to win, and he's a hard-working guy. He won't tolerate anything."
Fast forward to the upcoming 2009 NFL season.
Entering his fourth season, Davis is far removed from being the drafted sixth overall by the 49ers in the 2006 NFL Draft out of the University of Maryland. The 6'3", 250 lbs. Davis was going to provide the 49ers with an instant playmaking tight end that has not been on the roster since former 49ers great, Brent Jones.
If Davis is going to live up to his high draft pick and become a perennial All-Pro, he needs to have a monster season for the 49ers. The 2008 season was a step back for Davis.
Davis started all 16 games and had 31 catches for 358 receiving yards and two touchdowns. In 2007, Davis had his best season, catching 52 passes for 508 receiving yards with four touchdowns while starting 14 games. It would be tremendous for the 49ers if Davis' 2009 season, statistically, can be a combination of both.
The more catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns for Davis, the better.
If Davis wants to point a finger towards someone for his inability to progress, he should point towards 49ers brass for a high turnover rate at offensive coordinator. Former New York Jets running backs coach Jimmy Raye will be the 49ers seventh offensive coordinator in the last seven years.
With a battle at quarterback between Shaun Hill, former first rounder Alex Smith, and Ball State's signal caller Nate Davis (no relation) highlighting the 49ers' upcoming training camp this summer, the other spotlight will be on the tight end. I'm most certainly sure that 49ers fans are hoping that Davis can finally realize that he is a star in the making by producing more on the field.
Whomever emerges from the quarterback competition is going to need a focused and determined Davis on every snap. If 49ers wide receivers happen to be well covered down field, get the ball to No. 85 in a hurry.
Instead of slapping opposing player's helmets, Davis needs to act more like a veteran than a wide-eyed rookie by taking more of leadership role on a team that has not made the playoffs since 2002.
The 49ers are one of the younger teams in the NFL and Davis has become one of the organization's most recognizable players, not for his play or marble-chiseled physique, but for his immaturity.
By stepping up and taking more of a leadership role, not only will it be beneficial for Davis' sake, but for the team's sake as well.