Offensive tackle Anthony Davis, whose NFL comeback wobbled two days before the 49ers’ season opener, retired on Monday for the second time in 15 months.
Davis, 26, abruptly left the game following an injury-riddled 2014 season and sat out last year. He returned to the team before this summer’s training camp and seemingly was reinvigorated and ready to resume his career. But he had second thoughts on the eve of the 49ers’ first game against the Los Angeles Rams and, according to the team, suffered a concussion in practice a few days later.
In 2014, Davis also had a concussion, which he said at the time left him feeling as if he were in a “white fog.”
“I just want my time and mind intact, when you lose em both, you can’t buy em back,” Davis wrote on his Twitter account Monday, quoting rapper Earl Sweatshirt.
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The 49ers’ starting tackles are Joe Staley on the left and Trent Brown on the right. The offensive line has allowed only two sacks this season – tied with the Raiders and New York Jets for the fewest – after giving up an NFC-worst 53 sacks last year.
Davis was supposed to be the backup at tackle, and his retirement leaves the 49ers’ thin at the position. If Staley or Brown were injured, left guard Zane Beadles likely would take over. Another option, rookie John Theus, has been inactive for the first three games. Veteran Erik Pears, who played right tackle last year and went through the offseason regimen with the 49ers, recently had surgery and is unavailable.
Despite boastful promises during and after the 2015 season he would return to the NFL, Davis didn’t end his retirement until the start of training camp June 30. He immediately impressed coaches and teammates with his conditioning and dedication.
When he rejoined the team, he was placed with the third-string offensive line. He worked his way to the second-team unit but could not beat out Brown for the starting role at right tackle. At that point, the 49ers moved Davis to right guard, a move he accepted if it meant he would start. He was full of bravado as he made the transition.
“I’m an athlete,” Davis said in August. “I can play right tackle. I can play anywhere along the line. We want the best five (linemen) on the field, and Trent is not going to play guard. He’s a giant man. And I feel like I could adapt to guard.”
He was right. Davis was slated to be the starting right guard against the Rams on Sept. 12, but he had misgivings and missed the Saturday practice preceding the game. Sources said Davis contemplated retirement at that point, but the 49ers officially sloughed it off as “miscommunication” and said Davis was moving back to tackle. Andrew Tiller has started the first three games at right guard.
Three days after the Rams game, according to the team, Davis reported concussion systems following practice and had not practiced since.
Davis was drafted 11th overall in 2010 and was the first pick by Trent Baalke, who became the 49ers’ general manager one year later. During his year away from the game, Davis nettled Baalke on social media, and Baalke said in July the two shared a “special relationship.”
“There have been times when we’ve gone at it, and he understands why and we move on,” Baalke said. “But everything is very positive at this point. Now it’s (about Davis) blending back in and going to work.”
At one point, Davis questioned whether Baalke wanted to win as badly as he did, and in April – again on social media – he urged the 49ers to draft an offensive tackle with their first pick.
The 49ers’ press release regarding Davis’ retirement did not include quotes from Baalke. It read simply: “Offensive lineman Anthony Davis informed the team that he has retired from the National Football League.”