Allen Park — At the NFL scouting combine, one of the key things NFL teams try to learn about prospects is their passion for the game. Do they really love football? Could they even imagine a life without it?
All those prospects are coached on how to answer those questions, and just about any others teams could throw their way in the 15-minute interviews, but it's not difficult to identify those who are truly passionate about what they do.
Jarrad Davis is one of those players.
The Detroit Lions linebacker is a football junkie. When he's not playing it, he's watching it. He's the guy texting his coaches ideas and questions at all hours of the night. When you hear about a guy who eats, drinks and sleeps football, Davis is the type they're talking about.
Knowing that, you can imagine it's been a difficult offseason for the third-year linebacker. Looking to build off a strong finish to his sophomore campaign with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2017, Davis has had to battle multiple injuries.
A minor injury kept him from participating in Detroit's joint practice sessions with the New England Patriots and Houston Texans, and when Davis returned to action, for the third preseason game, he landed right back on the shelf on the contest's second snap, when teammate Devon Kennard ran into his legs.
"Honestly, it’s been tough," Davis said. "I’m not going to sit here and say that it hasn’t. It’s been pretty challenging to not be able to play football, not be able to do what I love to do."
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The preseason injury looked bad. An emotional Davis had to be carted back to the locker room. But a day later, coach Matt Patricia revealed it wasn't a season-ending situation, or even one that would land the linebacker on injured reserve, which would have kept him out for the first seven games.
"Getting the MRI and seeing the results of that and just hearing the doctors explain all of that, it just -- man, when I heard the news, I just had to thank God," Davis said. "I feel like I was truly blessed. Just coming off the field, not being able to make it off on my own energy, then having to get carted off in front of everybody, it was very scary and it was very emotional for me, you know?"
Davis still isn't back. He missed the opener against Arizona last week and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Chargers. In the meantime, he's done his best to stay involved and try to grow as a player by attempting to see things through his teammates' eyes.
"Just being able to get a feel for how my guys think," Davis said. "Not being out there gives me a chance to not only roam on game day, but in practice. I can roam on the sideline and say, ‘Hey, what do we see out here? Why did you call this? Why did you check that? What were you thinking? Why did you do that?' Just to get a feel for what all the other guys are doing out there.
"It really helps me out with what I’m doing, makes me more secure in what I’m doing in the defense."
Davis sounds as if he's thinking like a coach, and admits that's something he might consider doing down the road, although his preference would be able to work with kids as opposed to college or professional athletes.
"It might be something I think about in the future." he said. "I can’t make a decision yet, it’s too early. Way too early."
He might have to play the role at least one more week. A limited participant in the three days of practice, he was doing very little physical activity in the portion that was open to the media on Friday.
In his place, rookie Jahlani Tavai has had to pick up the slack and Davis has liked what he's seen.
"He’s a great processor," Davis said. "I really like him a lot. He’s got really good instincts and it’s fun watching him play. ... Honestly, I love being around him, just in the locker room. Being on the field with him, he’s always light on his feet, great at cracking jokes, keeps the energy up. You know?
"Just to be out there with those guys, be out there with him, it’s special," Davis said. "It’s made this time when I’ve been out kind of go faster, just sticking close to those guys. They really help me stay up."