The man who last year said he was focused on his “brand” on Friday insisted he was no longer motivated by money.
“That’s not who I am; that’s not what I stand for. I don’t do anything for money,” tight end Vernon Davis said as he and the rest of the 49ers veterans reported for training camp. “I don’t let money represent me. That’s just not me. I play for the love of the game. And that’s the beauty of this sport – it’s that about the love, the teammates, your coaches.”
Last year at this time, Davis, 31, said, he was being steered by a financial adviser he declined to name who said his client deserved a better contract. Davis, who was coming off a season in which he caught 13 touchdowns and had 850 receiving yards, agreed.
He skipped the team’s offseason workouts, including the mandatory minicamp. Meanwhile, he had his hand in a number of other ventures – from acting to an art gallery to a Jamba Juice franchise 2 miles from team headquarters.
“You know what, every decision I make is in the best interest of my brand,” Davis said in a radio interview last year when asked about his offseason absence. “At the end of the day, we sometimes have to make a business decision. And my decision is to work out on my own and focus on building my brand.”
That brand, however, took a major tumble in 2014. Davis had the most meager season of his career, one that saw him finish with two touchdowns – none after the first quarter of Week 1 – and 245 receiving yards. He missed parts of four games with ankle and back injuries.
Perhaps most significant, he was no longer a big-play threat. After averaging more than 13 yards a catch in his first eight seasons, his average dropped to nine yards last year. His longest play was only 29 yards – the shortest season best of his career.
Davis, who is entering the final year of his contract, still has plenty of outside interests. He shot ads for team sponsor Levi’s, for example, and was one of several NFL players who appeared on the Family Feud game show in the summer.
But he also took part in the 49ers’ offseason program and made some changes as far as financial advice. He said he began to have second thoughts about last year’s strategy, and what he stands for, during the season.
“You know what, I fired that (adviser) because he worships money,” he said. “That’s not what I worship.”
In that way, Davis is emblematic of an organization that has done plenty of reassessing and recalibrating over the past year and is entering 2015 with far less baggage than a year ago.
Or as left tackle Joe Staley put it: “Last year was just a jumbled mess in a lot of areas.”
The full squad reported Friday and the first practice is Saturday . Veteran Anquan Boldin said there was a “breath of fresh air” at team headquarters and that “guys are looking forward to coming to work and getting the job done.”
He said that sense of ease was apparent with Davis.
“I can’t say why last year went the way it did for him,” Boldin said. “I just see him bright-eyed and excited about this year. Coaches will make it an emphasis to get him back to his old form. In practice, he has a bounce in his step and seems like the old Vernon.”
Davis agreed, but described himself as more of a “young Vernon.”
“Right now, the way I feel, I feel like a rookie,” he said. “I feel like I did when I first walked in here. I feel faster. I feel explosive. I just feel great overall.”