By: Will Burchfield
Marvin Jones snuck up behind Jarrad Davis as he was talking to reporters after practice, slung his right arm around the rookie’s stomach and lifted him off the ground.
Davis turned to see who it was and laughed. Jones laughed, too. (Jones is always laughing.)
The rookie linebacker had given the veteran receiver a good licking in practice, laying a firm shoulder into Jones as he made a catch over the middle of the field. The ball popped free for a moment and the sound of the collision triggered shouts from the sideline.
It was one of the first real football plays of training camp, delivered by the Lions’ first-round draft pick.
“It’s part of the game, man, physicality is football. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it. I’m practicing my craft, I’m working on me. I’ll make sure I take care of my teammates, but you gotta have moments like that. It’s gonna make a team better,” Davis said.
Already, the 21-year-old Davis is showing signs of being a leader. This is a large part of why the Lions drafted him, believing full well he can become the general of the defense.
Asked how he wants the Lions’ linebacker core to be known, Davis said, “A group of guys that doesn’t fall for anything, doesn’t break. We’re a group of guys that’s gonna hold down the middle of the defense and we’re gonna make sure we push everyone around us to play at a high level.”
It might sound a bit like lip service, but Davis is clearly more than talk. He wasn’t afraid to up the ante on Friday when he saw Jones streaking across the middle of the field.
Davis wants it to be known that territory belongs to the linebackers.
“We’re still in the hot zone, man. It’s practice — if I don’t do it in practice I’m not gonna do it in the game,” he said. “I gotta make sure that I put myself in the best position to make plays.”
When it was pointed out to him that Jones held onto the catch, Davis smiled.
“You saw, it popped out,” he said. “If I had really come with what I need to come with, it would’ve been a whole different story.”
He added, “When I get back in the (locker room), I’ma let him know it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.”
All linebackers — all defensive players, for that matter — relish contact.
(“If they don’t, they’re in the wrong business,” said Jim Caldwell.)
But Davis seems to have an extra zeal for the violent nature of the game. The Lions have been practicing in pads since Tuesday, and he couldn’t be happier with the wardrobe change.
“I love it, I love it,” he said, twice for good measure. “Being in shorts and T-shirts for so long, it feels good to come out here and put the pads on. I really miss this, being able to put your hands on somebody and actually hit somebody. It feels awesome.”
Barring a change of plans, Davis will start the season at middle linebacker with Tahir Whitehead at outside linebacker. The two have spent a lot of time together in meetings and are now beginning to mesh on the field.
Whitehead has been nothing but impressed with Davis thus far.
“He loves the game. He’s a physical guy, he’s a smart guy. He just plays fast, and that in itself gives a guy great opportunities to go out here and make plays,” Whitehead said.
Off the field, meanwhile, Davis has shown an eagerness to learn.
“He’s comfortable with asking questions. He doesn’t have an ego. If he has something that needs to get answered he doesn’t hesitate to ask me, he doesn’t hesitate to ask (linebackers coach) Bill (Sheridan) — anybody he needs to talk to to get the answers he needs,” said Whitehead.
When the Lions were scouting Davis prior to the draft, his coaching staff at Florida raved about his character.
“They gave the guy glowing remarks in terms of intelligence, work ethic, toughness, leadership, all those things,” said GM Bob Quinn. “It was one after another. It wasn’t just one source or one coach, it was everybody in the entire building.”
The Lions are beginning to get a taste of it themselves.
“He does have some innate leadership ability, and a lot of that is how he works,” said Caldwell. “Even as a young guy he works extremely hard. But we’re only a short ways down the road, let’s just wait and see.”
As for Davis, he wants a taste of live NFL action. The Lions’ first preseason game is Aug. 13 versus the Colts.
The hard-hitting rookie can’t wait.
“In the game it’s a different mindset. You get a taste of it out here, but when you get in the game, in that violent, fierce atmosphere, that’s when you really let it loose and really take care of business,” said Davis.