It doesn't matter that he's been to two Pro Bowls and has won a Super Bowl.
Veteran tight end Vernon Davis prepares for each of his 13 seasons like it's his first and he has everything to prove. Over the course of nearly a decade and a half in the NFL, the Maryland product has naturally picked up on important factors to better himself not only as a player, but a person as well.
"You enter into the NFL as a young guy - I mean you don’t know too much," Davis said. "You’re trying to work yourself in, you want to be the best player you can possibly be but you know it starts with hard work, dedication, perseverance and learning from the older guys. As you go throughout your years in the NFL you either get better or you get worse. And I feel like I’ve been good as far as listening, observing, taking care of my body, making sure I’m mentally strong when it comes to challenges in life and in my career. Overall if I look back on my life I wouldn’t have imagined myself being at this point right now with the Washington Redskins, my thirteenth season. I always thought I would get to 10 and be done. But, you know it goes to show you that if you take care of yourself mentally, spiritually, take care of your body, do the right things, listen and be a great teammate, anything is possible."
Even with moving past his initial 10-season expectation, the Washington, D.C., native's accomplishments are still worth noting because of the rather small shelf-life of an NFL player. The pressure that he put upon in himself in creating that challenging goal is not an easy task for any player to live up to.
He has been active for all 16 games in seven of his 13 years, and has failed to dress in only 13 total contests throughout the course of his career. This durability serves as motivation for him to continue his high level of play, and inspiration for younger tight ends and other players on the Redskins roster as well.
“I think more than anything is them seeing his approach to not only practice, his film study, his approach to meetings, and to really just life in general," tight ends coach Wes Phillips said during minicamp. "He really is about being the best he can be in any situation he’s in. For them [the other tight ends] to see a guy who’s had as much success as he’s had and has all the physical ability but also takes care of his body, spends extra time watching film, and does all the little things exactly right. For them to see that, and understand that that’s how you become what he’s become is invaluable.”
Even with the return of Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed, Davis is expected to play a key role in the Redskins offensive scheme throughout this season. His 648-yard campaign in 2017 led the Maryland product to his highest total since his last Pro Bowl appearance in 2013, finishing behind slot wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who finished as the team leader with 789 yards. Working with a familiar face in Alex Smith this season gives Davis a great chance to build off his encouraging stat line from last year, and allows the Redskins to utilize two major receiving tight end threats every time they step onto the field.
Of course, the process starts with establishing a strong rapport in training camp and ensuring that everyone is well-conditioned to play through the entirety of an NFL season.
"Right now, Jordan knows that he has to do as much as he can to contribute to the team and stay healthy," Davis said. "It's unfortunate that we can't control some of those moments, the times, when we are out there on the field and all of a sudden, it's not going as expected and all of a sudden we're hurt, we're injured, can't control that part of it. But what he can do is continue to keep getting better mentally, spiritually, and just work his way back and just do the best he can to stay healthy. That's all that he can do."
The Washington Redskins conducted their second day of training camp practice Saturday, July 28, 2018 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
With the Maryland product and Reed expecting to serve as more than simply targets within the redzone, opposing defenses could struggle greatly because of the remaining depth among the pass catchers of the Redskins offense that include Paul Richardson Jr., Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder.
There are only a handful of teams in the NFL that can say they have five proven choices to catch the football from their respective quarterback, which for the Redskins holds a great deal of significance because of the great number of injuries that plagued head coach Jay Gruden's side last year. It's given Davis something to be excited about.
"Well overall I think this is one of the best teams I’ve ever been on and I saw that in offseason training," Davis said. "Offensively, I feel like we have some of the most talented players I’ve ever seen, Jordan Reed, [Jamison] Crowder, [Josh] Doctson, to add Paul Richardson [Jr.] is just a plus for us. It’s just amazing to be a part of this and I really feel like we have something special so it’s an honor to be a part of this team."