- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis came close to signing elsewhere in free agency last spring, but the club’s promotion of Mike Tice from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator prompted the veteran to stay put.
After free-agent visits to multiple teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, Davis decided to re-sign with the Bears primarily because of the radical facelift the offense would endure under Tice, who unlike his predecessor Mike Martz, plans to make the tight end an integral part of the scheme.
“Oh no, I wouldn’t have come back (if the offense remained the same as 2011),” Davis said. “That’s without question. I couldn’t go through another season with like 20 catches. That’s not doable. This is home for me. I love my teammates, the team and the coaches. But still it comes down to me and my career and what I want to do with that. So (by the Bears) changing the OC (offensive coordinator), I thought I had a good opportunity here.”
Twenty grabs actually would signify an improvement for Davis, who has 28 career receptions for 300 yards and nine touchdowns, including a career-high 18 catches in 2011 for 206 yards. In two seasons working with Martz, Davis amassed just 19 catches in an offense that treated the tight end position as somewhat of an afterthought.
Cumulatively, the tight ends produced 73 catches over the past two seasons under Martz, a number skewed by the 41 receptions made in 2010 by former Bear Greg Olsen. Bears coach Lovie Smith professed faith in Davis at the NFL combine in February as a potential featured option, saying the tight end possesses “great size” and is “skilled enough of an athlete to be able to move outside and do some things. I really like him.”
Obviously, Martz didn’t.
Used primarily as a blocker over the past two seasons, Davis admitted to being vexed by the way the club chose to deploy him, especially after encouraging signs during training camp. For instance, during training camp last season, Davis could often be seen streaking down the seam catching deep passes from quarterback Jay Cutler.
But once the regular season rolled around, Davis was relegated back to blocking duties.
“It was kind of confusing because we’d go through training camp and I’d be catching eight to 10 balls a day, and (then) we’d go into a season, and (I’d) just kind of disappear,” Davis said. “So I’m looking forward to just having carryover, and doing the same things I’m doing out here now during the season.”
While there’s a chance training camp 2012 could prove to be yet another tease for Davis, he finds solace in playing in Tice’s new system, which actually places a high emphasis on his position in the passing progressions.
“We’re in the progressions as the No. 1 or No. 2 (target) in almost every play,” Davis said. “So we’re gonna be there and Jay is gonna look for us.”
Preseason outings might not actually demonstrate the true frequency of action the tight ends will be given during the regular season, Davis said, because of the need for the team to not tip its hand to opponents.
Still, that doesn’t temper Davis’ excitement about the prospects for the season.
“We’re working on it now, but we’ve got to get into preseason games and things like that and really see how it’s gonna work,” Davis said. “We’ll be dumbed down for the preseason, but (come) Week 1, I’m gonna be excited.”