- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2016

ASHBURN — The last time Vernon Davis played a regular-season game at FedEx Field, he was still dazzling as the San Francisco 49ers’ pass-catching tight end. He had four receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown in a 27-6 win against the Redskins in 2013, and finished the season with 52 catches for 850 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Greg Toler hasn’t played one at all. The Redskins’ cornerback was injured in 2011 and didn’t travel when the Arizona Cardinals visited Washington.

Davis and Toler, both Washington natives, are embracing being home for the start of the regular season, which begins for the Redskins on Monday night when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers. Davis said he got tickets for 22 friends and family members. Toler said he got 24.

“Ridiculous,” Toler said with a smile on Saturday at Redskins Park. “I’m overly excited, but trying to keep my composure. Family, friends, coaches, people who supported me growing up as a little kid will all be there. I try not to play too much into being home and the expectations, because this is my hometown. I just want to be accountable when my number’s called and make the plays that come my way.”

Toler, who is in eighth season, did that throughout the preseason, solidifying his role on the 53-man roster and bringing depth to the Redskins’ cornerback group after signing a one-year deal.

Like Toler, Davis said he’s tried his best to limit the distractions. He keeps a small circle, which he said has been easy to do since he was away from the Washington area for so long after spending 10 years with the 49ers and a short stint with the Denver Broncos when he was traded at the end of last season.

“This first game is a lot, but after this I have to tone it down,” Davis said. “It’s great, being back home and playing at FedEx Field for the first time, regular season. I’m having the time of my life right now.”

Davis has also been a pleasant surprise for the Redskins since signing a one-year deal in the offseason. Though he is not the playmaking pass catcher he was at the height of his success in San Francisco, he still commands attention from opposing defenses. The Redskins lean heavily on multiple-tight end sets and he’ll have to be accounted for, which will make it tougher for teams to focus on tight end Jordan Reed. More importantly, Davis proved to be a valuable run-blocker throughout training camp in the preseason, something he said he didn’t always focus on early in his career.

Davis endured a transitional period in training camp as he caught up to speed with the playbook and got acclimated to the Richmond heat, the latter of which he joked was more difficult.

“It’s been years, probably decades since I’ve been back and able to train in this atmosphere,” Davis said. “But I made it through. I remember the first time I got out there, I was like, ‘Wow I don’t know if I’m gonna make this.’”

Once Davis got comfortable with the coaching staff and players, he said he felt better adjusted to his new, but familiar surroundings.

“I had a chance to really cultivate the relationship with the team, get to know everyone on a different level on the field, off the field,” Davis said. “Just becoming more familiar with the coaching and the playbook. After that, it’s all downhill, you feel like this is your home.”

For Davis and Toler, Washington is home.

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