If you hadn't heard Jets linebacker Jarrad Davis talk before, you got some flavor of what he's about when he discussed the first practice of training camp on Wednesday. Not too bad ... but not as good as it could've been, either.
"I think we got off to a pretty good start," Davis told reporters in the outside interview tent after the session. "One thing that's going to be big for us is finishing, know what I mean? Spending my time in Detroit, we struggled finishing games the past couple of years. That's something I take very personal right now because I've been burnt by it so many times on a personal basis. When I'm around my teammates, I really try to express to them that when we get out here, we've got to finish just as good if not better than how we started. We've got to push all day, every day, no matter what the situation is.
"So we started hot, but we didn't finish how we needed to, in my opinion."
That battle was a little microcosm of what Davis described as his own changed approach to the game he loves. He was a starter for the past four seasons with the Lions, although his starts and his defensive snaps fell off from Year 2 to Year 4, leading and he said he actually contemplated hanging up his pads.
"One thing that I was doing, and this is on me, I was making the game everything," he said. "I was making myself the game. And when I was doing that, it just didn't feel right. This is such a competitive sport at this level. You have to put your all into it. But there has to be balance. I had a personal life but it wasn't as important, I didn't really care. If my personal life got in the way of football, it couldn't exist. Living like that, I burnt myself out. I had to do some things, take care of myself personally, mentally, emotionally, get back right and revitalize."
To do that, he went out to Denver rekindle a relationship that began during his draft process in 2017 with Dr. Rick Perea, a leading practitioner in performance psychology. Perea got Davis to "change the lens I was looking at life through, so personally I revalued things."
The call from the Jets came, which gave him the opportunity to play for new head coach Robert Saleh — "I love how confident he is, how calm he is, how collected he is," Davis said — and play in the Saleh/Jeff Ulbrich 3-4 that's similar to the scheme he was familiar with at the University of Florida. He also reunited with former college teammate Marcus Maye, and as Davis said, "It's nice to have another Gator out here on the back end."
All of this has gotten Davis refocused on football as, he said, something he does and not what he is anymore. And the hope is that it's returned him to the balanced 'backer he was as a former first-round draft choice who had 30 starts and nearly 200 tackles in his first two years as Detroit's MLB.
"It's so freeing to be out there," he said of his current mindset. "If I mess up in practice, I mess up in practice. I can bounce back from that and make a better play the next play. Before, I messed up, now I think about that all practice, I can't even focus on anything else. I can't see the fullback taking me to the gap I need to go to anymore because I'm thinking about this play that happened 20 minutes ago."
Davis' honest thoughts seemed to echo some of the reporting coming out of Tokyo about U.S. Olympian Simone Biles. The linebacker said he wasn't fully up on the gymnast's situation, but it appears that Davis has come through the other side of his mental health quandary with a renewed sense of purpose and enjoyment in the game he's played since the age of 6.
"I'm excited every day, man," he said. "I wake up every day and just thank God for being able to come back out here. I love this game."
And practice No. 2 of Jets training camp is just over the horizon on Thursday.
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