Broncos’ Davis has soft spot for this week’s opponent
AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio – Andra Davis never dreamed he would play anywhere but in Cleveland, the adopted pro football home for him and his family.
Browns coach Eric Mangini let him leave without a simple goodbye.
Davis spent seven seasons with the Browns, who drafted him in 2002. He was their starting middle linebacker, leading tackler, mentor, captain and so much more.
“He was like the grand daddy in the locker room,” said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. “If anybody had a problem, go to Dra. He’s got the best advice.”
A free agent following last season, Davis had hoped to re-sign with the Browns. But when Mangini arrived from New York to take over in Cleveland, the 30-year-old Davis was not part of the future plans and was never contacted by the new coach.
“I never spoke to him (Mangini),” Davis said. “The lack of conversations kinda let me know that it going was to be a different route.”
The reality that he would no longer suit up for the Browns hurt Davis deeply.
“It’s just hard to pack up and say goodbye,” he said. “I knew once I left Cleveland there was a good possibility I wasn’t ever coming back.”
Davis landed in Denver, and this Sunday he’ll get a chance to show Mangini made a mistake on him when the Broncos host the Browns.
The affable Davis swears he’s not looking for payback. That wouldn’t be his style.
But don’t think he wouldn’t mind picking off a pass by Browns quarterback Brady Quinn and returning it for six points against his former team.
“I’m definitely going to be excited about this one,” he said.
When the Browns didn’t make him an offer, Davis signed a two-year deal with the Broncos, who spent the offseason revamping a deplorable defense that ranked at or near the bottom in every major defensive category last year and surrendered 448 points.
He was a perfect fit in the 3-4 scheme employed by first-year Denver coach Josh McDaniels.
“Andra’s got a lot of football left in him,” McDaniels said.
Davis felt wanted in Denver.
“I had to come prove myself all over again, but they knew about me and they knew what I brought to the table,” he said. “It’s been a beautiful transition. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Davis was a defensive mainstay at inside linebacker for the Browns, recording 833 tackles from 2002-08. Last week, he made nine stops and recorded one sack of Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer in Denver’s dramatic 12-7 win over the Bengals.
Davis’ debut with the Broncos was unforgettable. It ended with wide receiver Brandon Stokley hauling in a tipped pass and going 87 yards for the game-winning TD in the final minute.
“When Stokley scored, man,” Davis said on a teleconference this week with Cleveland reporters. “Everybody was just saying, ‘Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus.'”
It felt good to finally be on the winning end of a bizarre finish for Davis. In Cleveland, he endured more than his share of gut-wrenching losses as the Browns found every conceivable way to blow games during his time there.
Davis made the playoffs as a rookie, but it was all downhill – or uphill – from there.
He’s had some time to reflect on his days with the Browns, who are on their fourth coach since 1999 and have had just two winning seasons in that span.
Try as they do, the Browns just can’t seem to win. Davis doesn’t understand why.
“That, I can’t put my finger on, it’s probably something I’ll think about after my career is done,” he said. “I can’t come up with any good answers. Everybody stayed there in the offseason when you didn’t have to, everybody worked hard. We had some really good coaches, the same coach who got fired last year (Romeo Crennel) has all the Super Bowl rings with New England.
“You can’t blame it on the coaches. I don’t know what the reason was we were losing. We lost, but we played hard.”
Nobody gave more than Davis.
He did his job without complaint. He was active in the community. If the Browns released a player, Davis would invite him over to his house for dinner and to offer support.
“You’re not going to meet a nicer guy than that,” Jackson said. “Down to earth, it doesn’t matter who you are, if he can help you he’s going to help you. I’m happy that he’s happy now. I can’t wait to see him.”
Davis is still close with his former teammates. “My guys,” he calls them. “I feel like I raised a few of them.”
And they helped raise his three daughters, two of whom he’s convinced will be rooting for the Browns.
He has left Cleveland, but Cleveland hasn’t left him.
Davis’ home in Colorado is filled with orange helmets, Browns jerseys and game balls – memories from a time and a team he will always cherish.
“My Cleveland Browns days are definitely over,” he said. “I’m a Denver Bronco now. I still root for that team. I’m hoping they win all the games – except this week.”