Despite getting drafted in the third round, Carl Davis did not find consistent success in Baltimore. The same was the case in Cleveland, after the Browns claimed him off waivers. He spent time in Indianapolis and Jacksonville, but also failed to live up to the promise he had shown upon entering the NFL.
Now on his fifth team since arriving in the league in 2015, Davis claims he has finally found a place worthy of being called “home.” The 29-year-old, who is participating in his first training camp as a member of the New England Patriots, spoke about him fitting in with the club’s season during a recent press conference.
“I just like what they do and it works for my body. Everything that other teams may do may not work for me. I’m not trying to make excuses or anything, but it is just what it is,” Davis said.
“This style fits me. I’ve been in a lot of different places and I actually feel like I’m at home. I told people here that I feel like this is home for me. I don’t know why, but I feel so comfortable with everybody in the building, able me to be myself. And I think that’s helping me translate it to the field, being myself.”
Even though he is entering his seventh season as a pro, Davis is a veteran of just 39 NFL games. Injuries have forced him to miss significant time, and they also limited him to only three contests after he arrived in New England last year.
The Patriots poached him off Jacksonville’s practice squad in October to help bolster their leaky run defense, and he showed some promise early on. However, having already dealt with a concussion when arriving in New England he was eventually sent to injured reserve because of the same issue. Even though Davis returned to practice in mid-December he never was activated off IR.
Nonetheless, the team re-signed him as a free agent earlier this offseason to give him another opportunity to prove himself.
So far, it appears Davis is doing just that.
While practice performance always has to be taken with a grain of salt, the journeyman has looked very good as both a big-bodied presence up front and as a disruptive presence during 1-on-1 drills. Preseason will determine whether or not he actually has a realistic chance of carving out a role on New England’s rebuilt interior defensive line, but so far Davis appears to be on a positive way.
What has changed for him compared to his unsuccessful tenures in Baltimore, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Jacksonville? According to the man himself, it’s not just the style of defense run by the Patriots but also the relationships he has built inside the organization.
“It’s just the people in the building. It’s a family atmosphere,” he said. “As long as you’re working hard, everybody respects you and lets you be yourself. It’s just a great feeling. I have a great relationship with a lot of people here.”
Among them are some former teammates of his as well, as Davis pointed out.
“Lawrence Guy first, because I played with him in Baltimore. And then, I played with [Matthew] Judon, I’ve known him since college. But when I first got here it was just, honestly, everybody. Everybody embraced me; the whole D-line, the defense, and the coaches. Everybody was just open,” he said.
Davis is not guaranteed a spot on New England’s roster based on the structure of his contract and the depth the team has built up front, but he has performed well ever since his arrival. Head coach Bill Belichick also noticed this during a recent press conference.
“It was good to have Carl on the team last year. Unfortunately he didn’t get to play a lot,” Belichick said. “I think he fits into our defensive system here. He’s had a good camp. Glad we have him. We’ll see how it goes. Training camp’s really a lot about consistency and being able to sustain it for all of us. He’s doing fine.”
When speaking about Belichick last week, Davis mentioned his ability to articulate assignments and prepare the team by putting it in different situations in practice. The veteran defensive tackle seems to have embraced this type of learning.
“You learn a lot, especially with Coach Belichick,” Davis said. “He teaches you the game on a different level. He’s so cerebral. I appreciate that because it makes me smarter as a football player — helps me to help my team.”
Will Davis indeed the Patriots this season? That remains to be seen. If he can build on his early training camp success, however, it would not be a surprise to see him make the roster and get another chance not just finally to live up to his draft status but also to enjoy “home” for at least another year.