Here’s a tip for losing weight and getting healthy: Rent an apartment above an eatery that sells mango-kiwi smoothies and will blend in some spinach and kale for just a dollar extra.
That was Mike Davis’ tack, and it’s been very effective. The 49ers running back, who last year flopped as a 217-pound rookie, is now 205 pounds, the lowest he’s been since he was a prep star in Stone Mountain, Ga.
When asked where that weight loss is most valuable, Davis said: “Cutting and making guys miss. And, really, my confidence. My body fat was high, and now it’s lower. So I feel more confident in myself.”
Davis’ new physique will be on display Sunday with Carlos Hyde sidelined with a shoulder injury. The Buccaneers also will be without their top runner, Stockton’s Doug Martin, who is dealing with a hamstring injury. Jacquizz Rodgers is expected to start for Tampa Bay.
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That makes the contest a battle of backups, a situation that didn’t work in the 49ers’ favor last year after Hyde was slowed by a stress fracture in his foot beginning in Week 5.
The 49ers in 2015 turned to a group of unheralded backups, including Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris and Davis, who collectively scored one rushing touchdown. None came close to a 100-yard rushing performance.
Davis, who was a fourth-round pick last year, epitomized that futility.
For most of the season, he was in danger of joining the Chiefs’ Donnell Bennett as the only running backs to average fewer than 1 yard per carry with at least 25 rushes in a season.
He avoided that ignominy by rushing 10 times for 34 yards in the 2015 season finale against the Rams, and he followed that with a strong performance in the preseason, one in which he showed off his slimmer build and more explosive style.
He rushed for 146 yards in the summer, averaging 8.1 yards carry. He also caught seven passes for 50 yards.
Chip Kelly said the 49ers will replace Hyde with a rotation of runners, and the team promoted Harris from the practice squad Saturday. Davis, however, took most of the snaps when Hyde got hurt against Buffalo. He was on the field for 24 plays while Draughn played only five.
“I think the biggest difference between this year and last year is that he’s grown a lot, matured a lot,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said of Davis. “He’s playing the way they expect him to play.”
Before he got on a health-food kick, Davis said his most sinful indulgence was a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which has 11 grams of fat per serving. Now he goes downstairs to the Power Bowl eatery on the ground floor of his building and has a cup of strawberries and granola. He calls his new diet a “game changer” and insists his mouth doesn’t water when he sees a teammate munching a salty or sugary snack.
“I’m just not really tempted,” he said. “I got to where I am because I stick to it. I don’t want to veer off and end up where I was. I’m who I want to be, and I’m happy about it.”