If the NFL had an All-Pro team for players who were on pace to have good years before having their seasons ended prematurely, Fred Davis would be a two-time member.
In 2011, the Redskins’ tight end was on pace to catch 79 passes for 1064 yards before a drug-related suspension ended his season after 12 games. Last year he was just starting to get into the swing of the Redskins’ new offense and through six games he was on pace for 64 catches for 870 yards. Then in the seventh game he tore his Achilles tendon and was out for the year.
Players who have back to back seasons that end early are not in line to get big, multiyear deals, even if they were “on pace” to have productive seasons. Davis drew some interest from the Browns and Bills but he ultimately came back to the Redskins on a one-year contract worth $2.5 million.
Davis is realistic about the lack of leverage he had as he looked for a deal last spring.
“I understand where they're coming from. It's a business,” he said last week. “It's like me investing in a car. I don't want a car that's beat up, I want a car that rides right. When you get an injury that stuff happens.I don't expect them to say 'here's a whole lot of money'. I'd rather earn it.
“I think I will earn it. Whatever it takes, I'm going to do what I need to do.”
He said that the Achilles injury will not keep him from performing this year.
“I feel good,” he said. “It's about my tenth month out of surgery, I feel great. I don't even think about it.”
He isn’t using the injury or the possibility of getting a big contract if he has a good year as motivation. “When you think about it too much, that's when you do get hurt,” said Davis, a 2008 second-round pick of the Redskins. “I don't think about it; I'm just going to play each play like it's my last, play each game like it's my last, and practice like that.”
That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t hear the skeptics who are wondering if, at age 27, he can recover from the Achilles injury and if he can ever put together a complete, productive season.
“Coming off of last year, I had a little something going and then had it stopped with injury, I feel like there's a lot for me to prove and goals to achieve,” he said.
Davis isn’t the only one who could benefit if he can have a healthy, productive season. If he is playing to potential, the attention he would draw could help other receivers get open.
Many are particularly anxious to see Davis on the field with wide receiver Pierre Garçon. We saw the two of them healthy and on the field together only briefly last year. Garçon went out early in the season opener and by the time he was back and healthy enough to contribute in the passing game, Davis was out with his injury.
“He demands attention in the middle of the field,” Garçon said of Davis. “I try to do my part on the outside. It’s a lot of weapons for our offense. We have to capitalize on that and it will be a great thing when we’re both out there together making plays.”
The Redskins hope to see a lot of great things out of their outside-inside combination in 2013.