Special teams contributions have helped keep Rashied Davis in the Bears' plans.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
BOURBONNAIS - Rashied Davis is one of 10 receivers competing for six jobs in the Bears' training camp, and the other nine are all bigger and younger than he is.
But Davis is well on his way to locking up a roster spot because, in addition to being a precise route runner and an experienced veteran, he's the best all-around special-teams player of the bunch. The 31-year-old, 5-foot-9, 187-pound Davis had just 5 catches last season for 35 yards after career bests of 35 receptions and 445 yards in 2008. But he participates in all four phases on special teams and tied for third last year with 12 tackles.
That kind of production is especially important on a Bears team that, under Lovie Smith, has always stressed the importance of special teams.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub annually has one of the best groups in the NFL, and it's players like Davis who help make that possible. In addition, the sixth-year veteran has performed well enough in Mike Martz's new offense to be listed as second team at wide receiver behind Johnny Knox.
"Going into this training camp, I think we all considered him the fifth receiver," Toub said. "But he's really doing well on offense. I think he's actually moving up the charts over there. But the fact that he is a four-phase player for me, that really enhances his chances."
Davis has always realized the importance of doing the less glamorous jobs in football. He made the 2005 Bears team as a cornerback and special teams player just a few weeks after winning the Arena League MVP award by scoring 44 touchdowns, running, receiving and returning kicks. But that wouldn't have been enough to get him a job in the NFL without his special teams play.
"It's a huge advantage," Davis said of his ability to block on returns and cover kicks and punts. "You have one or two more people fighting for you (in roster cut-down discussions). You've got Toub and you've got (assistant special teams coach) Chris Tabor on your side as well."
Davis' journey to the NFL was on a seldom-traveled road. He didn't play football in high school but decided to give it a shot at West Los Angeles Community College and played his way to San Jose State but was not drafted. Injuries limited him to just four games in his first two Arena League seasons with the San Jose Saber Cats before he flashed the versatility and all-around football skills in 2004 and '05, which led to a shot with the Bears.
Davis has never been guaranteed a place on the final 53-man roster in any of his six seasons. His play on special teams always has given him an edge, but he's become accustomed to fighting for a job.
"I expect it," he said. "It's not a big deal for me. Other than 2008, I haven't played a lot on offense, but I've played a lot of special teams.
"Special teams takes a lot of energy and a lot of focus and a lot of determination ... and it hurts sometimes," he said, chuckling. "But it is what it is. I enjoy playing special teams. For me it's always been about whatever I can do to help the team win."