Like plenty of others, Thomas Davis looks at the Redskins roster — one that features Adrian Peterson, Terry McLaurin, Landon Collins, Matt Ioannidis, Ryan Kerrigan and many more similar names — and sees the talent. However, Washington is coming off of a 3-13 campaign, one that all of those guys were a big part of.
So, what must the team do in the future to have their record match the potential that is often talked about? Davis, who recently signed with the franchise, gave his thoughts on Tuesday.
"It's all about practice habits," the veteran told reporters during a conference call. "You start to create your identity and who you're going to become and what you're going to be in practice. So you just have to change the way that you practice. You've got to make practice harder than the game. That's something that we've done under Coach Rivera for a long time and it's shown."
Of course, Davis will have the chance to do that under Rivera again in Burgundy and Gold. The two were together in Carolina from 2011 to 2018 before the former went to Los Angeles in 2019, and the 58-year-old's presence with the Redskins was a major factor in Davis' decision to join the organization.
"He’s not a coach that beats you when you’re down," Davis said of Rivera when asked what makes him so special. "He’s not a coach that, if you make a mistake or you go out and don’t have a particularly good game, he's not that coach that's going to be the guy that dog-cusses you. He's going to do whatever he can to uplift your spirits and make sure that he's motivating you to be better the next game."
As of now, it sure looks like the 37-year-old will slot in as a starter on Rivera and Jack Del Rio's defense. That's an idea that thrills him, too, considering some of the players who'll be doing work in front of him when football picks back up.
"Not only the front four," he said. "I kind of look at the top six or eight guys, I feel like they're all capable of going out and completely wrecking a game. As a linebacker, you want to play behind guys that are capable of doing that. That allows you to be free, that allows you to be able to make a lot more plays and that was a huge factor going into it."
Davis, who's going into his 16th season as a pro, anticipates making an impact in areas outside of the final box score, too. While he's with the Redskins — however long his tenure may be — he wants to teach those around him, because that's what older defenders did for him when he was just getting going.
"It's all about giving back and pouring it into the lives of these guys and getting the most out of them," Davis said.
So, Davis will have the opportunity to suit up for Rivera again, elevate the Redskins and mentor the NFL's next wave over the course of his stint in Washington. There's one more reason he's agreed to grind through another training camp, preseason and at least 16 more games, though, and it's the simplest of all: He knows he can.
"I didn't want to retire this season," Davis said. "Just go until you feel that you no longer want to do it anymore or that you no longer can do it anymore. After playing with the Chargers this year and adjusting to that style of defense that they played, and being able to be productive in what was asked of me, now I'm trying to go into a new system and show I can be productive in that."
With his track record, it wouldn't be wise to doubt that he can.
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