In his first comments since the Detroit Lions declined the fifth-year option on his rookie contract earlier this month, linebacker Jarrad Davis seems to be taking the team's decision in stride.
"Honestly, I wasn't even aware of it until literally like the day of," Davis said in a Zoom conference with reporters on Thursday. "It's one of those things that it can be detrimental or it can be a positive, but I'm not really focused on it. I'm just focused on getting better and being a great teammate with the guys that are around me.
"Fifth-year option situation, it is what it is," Davis said. "I'm going to keep coming to work everyday and pushing myself and pushing guys around me to be the best we can be."
Davis, a first-round pick out of Florida in 2017, remains under contract with the Lions for the 2020 season. As a first-round selection, the team held a one-year option for 2021, which would have paid him more than $10 million for that season.
Shortly after declining the option, Lions coach Matt Patricia said the decision wasn't indicative of an impending separation with the linebacker.
"I think J.D. is a cornerstone of what we’re trying to do and he’s in those big-picture plans in where we’re trying to go,” Patricia said last week.
Still, in addition to declining the option, the Lions also brought in depth that could be perceived as competition for Davis' playing time in 2020. The team signed Reggie Ragland and Elijah Lee, two young veterans with starting experience at inside linebacker.
But if you were looking for those additions to irk Davis, again, that's not how he's wired. He only sees the benefits of the competition.
"I wouldn't say it produces a chip, I just think it kind of produces excitement," he said. "It's one of those things, as an athlete and as a competitor you have to have great guys around you to bring out the best in you. It's hard to compare it to other things, but you don't really know what you're made of until you get put into a situation where you've got to bring everything out. I feel like this is similar. It's competition. These are guys that are very, very highly-touted linebackers. I've been watching them for a long time in the NFL. I'm honestly excited to have them in the room with me. We've been bouncing ideas off of each other already."
Currently, Davis' biggest battle is the mounting frustration of wanting to return to work. When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, he offered a balanced perspective, between the ongoing need for the safety of society from a disease that, as of Thursday, had claimed more than 80,000 lives in the United States to the lasting economic impact.
"It's something that is very, very dangerous to a lot of people, and it's something that's dangerous to the livelihoods of a lot of people. It's just tough both ways," Davis said. "I've heard stories of people that have gone in (to the hospital) on a Monday and they're gone on Wednesday; they passed away from it. I respect it for what it is, but I don't know, I'm just tired of waiting and I feel like a lot of people are kind of in that boat now."
In the meantime, Davis has been grinding through his typical offseason routine of film study, positional drills and weight training. He's self-aware of the weaknesses in his game, the things that likely led to the Lions declining his fifth-year option, and working toward improving in those areas. That includes defending the run, coverage and the way he leads on and off the field.
"(I'm) just trying to make sure I get to a place and spend enough time somewhere where I can really work and develop those things, those areas that I'm weak in," Davis said. "My training process, honestly, hasn't been too bad. It's kind of been a breeze. Quarantine, in a weird way, is helping me focus even more because it makes you lock in."