Jarrad Davis struggled with criticism, likes simplicity of Detroit Lions’ schemes

Detroit Free Press

Jarrad Davis admitted something Friday that few in football ever do. He’s human. And he heard the outside criticism — and all the pressure that came with being the Detroit Lions’ first-round pick in 2017.

“As a human being, we say we want to ignore the noise, we say we want to do all these things,” the linebacker said after he signed a one-year deal to return to the team. “But it’s really hard. And as a football player, it’s not easy to go out and work hard every single day of the week, week in and week out, and come home without the results that you want.

“So I’ve had to learn how to balance and understand that this thing is not going to be an overnight thing. And yeah, there’s been a lot of work put (into) it, but the time it takes is the time it takes. So at the end of the day, there’s not a lot of things, maybe a couple of ‘Madden’ games that I’ve ever quit. But I’m going to keep working as long as they allow me to.”

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Davis, 27, was one of the hardest workers and hardest hitters in four disappointing seasons with the Lions from 2017-20. He fought expectations and an ankle injury in 2019, then lost his job the next season to Reggie Ragland.

He joined the New York Jets last season on a $5.5 million one-year, prove-it deal but fought injuries again and played in just nine games with five starts.

Lions coach Dan Campbell has been a fan of Davis’ hard-hitting style and Davis said he’s looking forward to a simplified scheme and improving bonds with teammates in his second go-round with the Lions.

“A lot of it just comes down to really just having simplicity in the schemes where guys can go out and just play fast,” he said. “We have an understanding of what exactly we need to do on each and every play, each and every down so we can just go out there and execute.

“And during my time away just learning that a lot of things like the connections … really cultivating those bonds within the team is something we kind of lacked a little bit while I was here. Just driving those things home to really build it up to make sure everybody is one unit out there.”

Davis said he also has found better balance in his life, learning he could take a break occasionally.

“The biggest thing for me is finding a new No. 1, you know?” he said. “Football has been my No. 1 for so long. I’ve played this game since I was 6 years old and I loved it ever since I stepped on the field.

“And finding something to challenge me just as much as football does, if not even a little bit more, is honestly a little bit more fulfilling and makes football a lot easier. And that’s my spirituality, that’s my friendships, my relationships, my life with my wife and my child. Different things like to really help me understand this life has more things in it than football.”

Davis had to learn how to deal with the challenges of not being a four-year starter in high school or college, then the high expectations of being the No. 21 overall pick. He had to learn the difficulty of dealing with injuries — he says his ankles “feel really good” — and negotiating the tricky road of free agency.

“There’s so many things I’ve had to overcome and this is just one more thing in my life,” he said. “And it excites me because I’ve told people plenty of times, ‘It’s not always easy to be on the top of the mountain.’ It’s not always easy, but for me, my whole entire life, I’ve loved the climb.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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