Reporting David Elfin
Dear Redskins draft picks, rookie free agents tryout candidates and other assorted young players,
As you take the field today for the start of rookie minicamp at Redskins Park, make sure not to follow Fred Davis’ example.
Sure Davis has made millions playing for Washington and should be the starting tight end for a third straight season in 2013 if the Achilles’ tendon he tore in Week 7 last year is healed.
But there’s another side to the 27-year-old Toledo, Ohio native.
A second-round pick from Southern Cal in the 2008 draft, Davis became instantly infamous by failing to appear for the third and final day of his rookie minicamp. The Redskins, who had to have rookie guard Kili Lefotu hospitalized two years earlier after he lost consciousness in his room during training camp, were understandably very alarmed.
“[Fred] didn’t show up to a meeting so we started looking for him,” coach Jim Zorn said. “Either there was some real trouble and we needed to find him or he screwed up. [I'm] very disappointed, but hopefully everybody will learn from the lesson that he’s having to learn right now about what it’s going to take to get to a place on time, to be responsible. He was mortified sitting in my office. That’s probably enough for a young guy to have to sit through, but his mom knew as well and he had to go face her. And he’s going to have come back here [for conditioning workouts in two weeks] and face our team as well. There’s enough penalty in just the [humiliation] of that.”
Indeed, Davis’ teammates joked that they were going to get him an oversized clock like the one sported by hip-hop performer Flavor Flav.
The practice on May 4 was the earliest of minicamp, at 9:30 AM, meaning the players had to be on buses to Redskin Park before 8 AM.
“I just wanted my own room,” Davis said. “I’m used to that. I didn’t explain [the switch] to the Redskins because it was maybe 8 PM. I went to bed early and was in the hotel the whole night, I didn’t even go out. I went in the room and … [the difference from] ‘California time, the [exhausting] two-a-days got to me and I just overslept.” “When I woke up, I looked at the clock and I was like ['Uh oh'] and then I seen my phone message [from the Redskins]. I don’t know the exact time, but I know I talked to [executive vice president] Vinny Cerrato during practice [which began at 9:30 AM]. I got over as soon as I could.”
Davis said that when he met with Zorn to explain, it was “like going to the principal’s office.” Lucky for Davis, his coach was the mellow Zorn, not current no-nonsense type Mike Shanahan.
“[It was] irresponsible,” said Davis, who was barred from the Orange Bowl by Trojans coach Pete Carroll when he was late returning to campus from a brief Christmas break freshman year. I felt really bad. It’s something that won’t happen again. It’s not my character. I’m a hard-working person. Now I want to move on and do what I’m supposed to do … make plays and be an athletic tight end. [I]‘ve got to make sure I do everything right and represent the Redskins the best I can and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Davis, the winner of the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end in 2007, has generally played well for the Redskins since he was a non-factor as a rookie. Despite playing in just 18 and a quarter of Washington’s 32 games the past two seasons, his 83 catches and 1,121 receiving yards were just four shy of leading the team in the former category and 36 shy in the latter.
However, Davis hasn’t exactly been a sterling representative of the Redskins off the field. He was suspended for the final four games of 2011 after failing multiple drug tests. That same year, Davis was involved in an altercation in a District nightclub. Eschewing an attorney, Davis has defended himself. Referring to the version of the incident as related by the woman who is suing him, Davis declared, “It’s just all made up and flagellant.”
So young men, listen to someone who first covered the Redskins before almost all of you were born. Show up where and when you’re supposed to be. And don’t be flagellant.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin