SAN JOSE, Calif. — Vernon Davis got to sleep at home for a night in the Bay Area, stay in the same hotel where he lived during 49ers training camp last summer, and the equipment staff even promised him his old locker at Levi’s Stadium this weekend.
No matter that he might play a bit part in this Super Bowl for the Denver Broncos, Davis is back where he has made a home for more than a decade and ready to win a championship ring after coming up just short three years ago with San Francisco.
It just so happened he arrived Sunday for Super Bowl week on his 32nd birthday, too.
“It hasn’t been that long since I left here, so it kind of seems like I was just here,” said Davis, who was traded from the 49ers to the Broncos on Nov. 2. “I’ll look around a little bit and get a gauge on things and I’ll come to the realization that I’m actually playing in the Super Bowl at Levi’s Stadium.”
The veteran tight end has had discussions with many a teammate already on the importance that they “just stay together, just stay in this moment, and don’t get caught up on the outside because the moment you do there’s a lot of risk.”
Davis didn’t even have plans to stop by the Jamba Juice store he owns.
He would love nothing more than to leave his mark on this Super Bowl, somehow. Even if he has played all of 11 snaps this postseason with one target and no catches.
“You haven’t seen me but there’s a chance that you could see me,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m all about faith, anything could happen just like that. The moment it does, I have to take advantage of my opportunities. They will come. … I’m a patient guy and I’m ready whenever the opportunity presents itself.”
According to Football Perspective, Davis is one of just four players to have competed in home games on the Super Bowl field during the regular season then return for the championship game with a different team.
For Davis, that three-point loss to Baltimore in the Super Bowl following the 2012 season has stuck with him – just as it has for many of his former 49ers teammates.
“It just weighs heavy on you when you make it to the Super Bowl and you can’t pull off the victory,” Davis said. “It’s not a good feeling at all. I stressed that to some of my teammates, I wanted to make them aware of what it can feel like if things didn’t go our way – just give them that fire and that motivation.”
He has watched Manning so intently the past couple of months to learn whatever he can from the five-time NFL MVP, noting, “I even picked the seat beside him in the team meeting room just to get his energy.”
Davis matched his career high with 13 touchdown receptions in 2013, and believes he can still be that dominant again. He has had tough stretches before when he didn’t get as many chances as he’d like.
When someone suggested that Sunday might be his final game, Davis chuckled, “Oh, come on, man, no way, no way.”
“As long as I can run a 4.3 or a 4.4 I’m going to continue to play the game. When that leaves, then I’ll stop playing,” said Davis, who is still running a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. “I’m leaving on my own terms, most definitely.”
Davis’ experience in big games and athleticism is a big reason Denver acquired him.
“He’s brought that,” general manager John Elway said. “Obviously, the play time’s been up and down, but he’s made some big catches for us. He came in in a short window, too, so trying to get him comfortable with the offense, what we’re doing, and also it was right around the time that Brock started and came in. He’s always there, he’s always a threat and the defense always has to worry about him.”
Davis has been providing his share of insight already about how it felt to come so close and lose on the NFL’s biggest stage. His versatility also has allowed the Broncos to run more two- and three-tight end sets.
“Vernon’s a heck of a player. We came in together `06 class, so 10 years in the game for him,” Broncos tight end Owen Daniels said. “A ton of playoff experience, Super Bowl experience, that can’t be overlooked in terms of being able to relay that to guys and kind of alert us to what might be going on during the week. He lives around the corner from here. He’s great for this week specifically. He’s been a great addition to our team.”