- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2017

When Vernon Davis entered the 2016 offseason as a free agent, he knew what everyone was saying.

At 32 and coming off two of the least-productive seasons of his football career, some had written Davis off as an elite NFL tight end.

But Davis found new life in returning home to Washington, where he grew up and flourished, first at Dunbar High School, then at the University of Maryland. Davis was a big target for Kirk Cousins, hauling in 44 passes for 583 yards and two touchdowns while playing behind Jordan Reed — one of the league’s best passcatchers who unfortunaelty for the Redskins is also one of their most injury-plagued stars.

Rejuvenating his career — especially in Washington — was special for the former All-Pro.

“Everything was just so surreal for me,” Davis said. “I remember back in 2006 when I got drafted to the San Francisco 49ers, I wanted to be a Redskin. I was hoping, I had my fingers crossed, I was praying that the Redskins would take me.”

The Redskins never had the option. Washington traded out of the first round altogether in 2006. And even if they had kept their pick, Davis, who was drafted sixth overall, was far too talented to fall to the Redskins at the 22nd pick.

Davis instead had to wait a decade to play for the team he grew up idolizing.

In the locker room in Ashburn, younger teammates took note of Davis‘ attention to nutrition maintaining his physique — especially rookie running back Mack Brown. Throughout the season, Brown picked Davis‘ brain on how to get himself in better shape. Davis laughed, recalling Brown flashing his abs and yelling at Davis if he could notice improvement after the running back ate some spinach for a meal.

Davis takes pride in his approach to staying healthy, and said it’s part of the reason he’s still able to play.

“I take care of myself the right way,” Davis said. “I don’t take many supplements. I use MuscleTech. I use the basics: protein, fish oils, multivitamins. That’s pretty much it, man.”

Davis also focuses what it takes for his body — and his mind — to recover from the weekly toll of an NFL season.

“Two or three massages a week, chiropractic work, work on the mental aspect of the game, making sure my mind is still there, that’s pretty much it,” Davis said.

Davis said he feels healthy and confident about playing several more year.

“I could probably play another six,” Davis said. “Probably six seasons, if I continue to take care of myself, which I do. I treat the offseason just like I’m in season.”

The Redskins would likely be happy to return him for, at the very least, one more season. Davis is set to become a free agent this offseason, and with Reed’s relatively consistent issues with injuries, which included a concussion (at least the sixth-known concussion of his career) and a separated AC joint in his shoulder, Washington could do worse than having Davis‘ production as a backup option.

Davis believes the Redskins are on the brink of becoming a contender in the NFL. Davis said Cousins (whom the tight end frequently just refers to as “the man”), can be the difference between success and failure for the franchise. That, and a few more veteran voices in the locker room.

“We had a lot of leaders in our locker room this year,” Davis said. “I think with the more leaders you have, the better. Winning teams always have multiple leaders, and that’s something we can continue to get better at.”

One thing is for certain, Davis wants to stay with the Redskins. He sees the current team’s makeup as a tremendous opportunity to continue his career in his hometown. Davis called this season the best one of his career, and he would not pass up on an opportunity to continue playing at home.

“I never imagined myself coming back to Washington, D.C.,” Davis said. “I didn’t know what it would be like. I knew my family would pull me this way and that way. But, it was the opposite. It’s been a dream come true. It’s been … just outstanding.”

“I’d love to be here for the rest of my career.”

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