Vontae Davis eager for fresh start
INDIANAPOLIS -- Vontae Davis spent the last three years hearing all about what he did wrong in Miami.
In Indianapolis, he'll get a chance to prove he can get it right.
Less than 24 hours after being dealt to the Colts for two draft picks, Indy's newest player walked into the locker room and wasted no time explaining why he's here: To win games and become one of the league's premier cornerbacks.
"I have a lot of confidence in my ability. My biggest thing is just work and grind. Those who work hard should be rewarded," Davis said Monday. "My biggest thing is working hard as an Indianapolis Colt and try to do the best I can as a player to help my team win."
It may be just what Davis needs to jump start his once promising career.
Since the Dolphins selected Davis with the 25th overall draft pick in 2009, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound cornerback produced solid numbers -- 148 tackles and nine interceptions -- but was hounded by speculation about why he never reached his full potential.
There has been plenty of speculation as to what happened in Miami.
Last fall, he showed up late to a practice, then scuffled with receiver Brandon Marshall. The Miami Herald later reported that the Dolphins believed Davis came to that workout with a hangover and a smell of alcohol on his breath. Then-coach Tony Sparano never confirmed either point.
And when training camp opened this summer, the blunt assessments were right there for all to see on HBO's "Hard Knocks." The new Dolphins coaching staff openly questioned Davis' conditioning level and desire to play the game. Eventually, he lost the starting job, a move that made a one-time future star expendable for a second-round draft pick and a late conditional draft choice.
Davis is content to forgive and forget. During a six-minute interview, Davis said what happened in Miami was history -- or uttered similar phrases -- six times.
"It's a good thing for me and the Miami Dolphins. It's a better opportunity for us both, me as a person and them as an organization," Davis said. "There are great guys in this locker room. You've got (Dwight) Freeney, (Robert) Mathis and these guys welcomed me in. The first thing Mathis told me was, 'Let's get ready to work.' "
The Colts believe he can help.
They had been desperately searching for someone to start opposite Jerraud Powers at cornerback. New general manager Ryan Grigson had already made three trades to acquire NFL veterans (Josh Gordy, D.J. Johnson and Cassius Vaughn) and signed another veteran free agent (Justin King) to fill the void.
But with no clear-cut winner in the cornerback competition, Grigson and new coach Chuck Pagano decided to take a chance on Davis.
"You think about when this kid came out, he came out early, he was 20 years old. He's only 24 now. So he's very, very young," Pagano said. "If I think back to when I was 20, 21, 22 years old, some of the things I did, I'm just glad they didn't write about it. It didn't make the papers. I wasn't a first round draft choice, so I kind of flew under the radar just a little bit."
What the Colts see is a big, fast, physical cornerback who can thrive in the man-to-man coverage Pagano wants to play in his 3-4 hybrid defense.
With Pagano's experience coaching the secondary, the Colts think it could be a perfect pairing.
In fact, when Davis arrived Monday, he reacquainted himself with the former Ravens defensive coordinator and secondary coach and asked specifically about why two players he had coached in Baltimore -- Ray Lewis and Ed Reed -- were so good.
"When he asked me about those two guys I knew, just looking in Vontae's eyes he's very, very serious about being something special," Pagano said. "He's serious about what type of legacy he wants to leave behind. He's serious about helping us win and win now. He's serious about being the very best that he can be as a football player. So moving forward, I feel really good about him."
The question, of course, is whether Davis has matured enough to forget the past and focus on the future -- something that allowed his brother, Vernon, to escape the doghouse in San Francisco and emerge as one of the NFL's top tight ends.
Vontae Davis insists this time will be different.
When he arrived in town, the University of Illinois alum said he felt right at home in the Midwest.
And, of course, he's out to prove he can still become the shutdown cornerback so many expected when he was drafted in 2009.
"There was only one reason for him (Pagano) to come get me, if he didn't have high expectations for me, so I wanted to let him know that I have high expectations for myself," Davis said. "My biggest thing is just working hard every day and picking his brain. He's been around a lot of great players. That's a goal of mine, I want to become a great player also."
NOTES: The Colts reached the NFL's roster limit of 75 on Monday by placing three players -- offensive tackle George Foster, nose tackle Brandon McKinney and receiver Griff Whalen -- on injured reserve. They also placed offensive guard Justin Anderson on the physically unable to perform list and nose tackle Josh Chapman on the reserve/non-football injury list. Indy waived 11 players Sunday night. ... Cornerback Jerraud Powers said he was feeling fine after spraining his knee in Saturday's preseason loss at Washington. Powers said he would have continued to play had it been a regular-season game. ... Backup quarterback Drew Stanton missed the Redskins game so he could attend the birth of his new son, who was born Saturday at 10:24 p.m. ... Pagano said receiver Austin Collie was continuing to "do well" after sustaining at least his third concussion in less than 22 months during a preseason loss at Pittsburgh. Pagano said he could be ready to play in the Sept. 9 season-opener at Chicago.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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