For a young NFL player just promoted to the 53-man active roster who just answered questions from a horde of Philadelphia media, Eagles wide receiver Robert Davis was remarkably relaxed in his NovaCare Complex locker on Thursday afternoon.
He's been here before, you see. The topsy-turvy league life is nothing new for Davis, even if you had never heard his name. A 2017 sixth-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins – irony calls, I know – Davis has kind of seen it all, even though he's played in only four regular-season games.
"This is nothing that I'm not used to. I've been in this position with Washington," Davis said. "I've been called up and I've been released – I've been on every spectrum of the NFL. I've been active, released, on IR – every spectrum. Nothing really gets me too bent out of shape."
Davis has leaned on his cousin, 15-year veteran Thomas Davis, the longtime Carolina Panther now playing with the Chargers, throughout his football life. Their relationship and Thomas' advice helped Robert in his college days at Georgia State, helped him take his next step after the Redskins drafted him, and provided confidence and understanding as Davis was released and added to Washington's practice squad that season.
In 2018, running a route during Training Camp with no contact involved, Davis suffered a gruesome injury – he tore the ACL, PCL, MCL, and broke his tibia after going up for a pass and as he landed his leg inverted and snapped – and there was some doubt from those around him, and even Davis for a minute or two, when he would ever recover from the injury. Davis ran a 4.44 40-yard dash before the 2017 NFL Draft, and while he was raw and needed a lot of work, he had the measurables.
Would he get them back after such a terrible injury?
"I learned that I could overcome a lot more than I thought I could," Davis said. "My parents and my girlfriend supported me and never faded away. You know what they say, 'Tough times don't last; tough people do.' I had to fight to get back. I'm still fighting. I'm not in a position to ever relax. You always have to be ready."
Davis signed with the Eagles' practice squad on October 7 and he's seen how the injuries have impacted the wide receiver room. The Eagles had their eyes on Davis in the summer as they scouted players around the league who potentially could be released and when Davis was waived from Washington's active roster on October 1, Philadelphia was right there with an offer.
His last two weeks at practice have been particularly impressive, even working on the scout team.
"You can see that he can play and it's just a matter of learning and getting comfortable and building on that," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "It's the same way with Greg Ward and Boston (Scott) and Perk (Joshua Perkins). They can play in the league. You just have to find the right situation."
Sunday is right around the corner. Davis has his handle on the playbook, but there is always more to learn. With Nelson Agholor (knee) still not practicing, the Eagles could head into this game with rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Ward, and Davis as the wide receivers, and Perkins, a hybrid, working some at tight end and some at wide receiver. There isn't a whole of experience in that group.
At this point in the season, there isn't any other choice. The players are going to be coached up and ready to roll.
And for Davis, who played in one game in 2017 and three this year for Washington (he was on the practice squad for the Week 1 matchup against the Eagles), the excitement of suiting up will be very, very real.
"Shoot, Thomas is in his (15th) season and he still tells me he has butterflies," Davis said. "He says, 'If you're not nervous, you're not ready to play.' He tells me he still gets the same nerves he had in his first and second seasons. That never leaves. So, there are going to be some nerves but once I get out there and get playing and get going, it's just going to be doing something that I love to do and that's playing football."
Having the wisdom of Thomas Davis, who has done it all and seen it all in the NFL, as a guiding influence in his life has helped Robert Davis navigate the highs and lows of a football life.
"He's one of my role models," Robert Davis said. "He's one of my idols, someone I want to grow and be like as a man and as a football player. I've been working for this opportunity. And, you know, when opportunity knocks, you answer. That's what I plan to do."