Vontae Davis spent 10 years building his football legacy, earning two Pro Bowl honors and finishing as the league’s second-best cornerback in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus. Whatever sort of legacy he created during his first 10 years in the league was forever tarnished and destroyed with one cowardly gesture Sunday afternoon.
As the Buffalo Bills (0-2) returned to New Era Field for the second half of their home opener, a 31-20 setback to the Los Angeles Chargers, they did it with Davis, one of Buffalo’s starting cornerbacks, conspicuously absent from the lineup.
I’ve been watching sports all my life, and in the three-plus decades of watching sports, I’ve never seen anything like the stunt Davis pulled Sunday.
Head coach Sean McDermott told members of the media that Davis removed himself from the game, but was not dealing with an injury at halftime.
Starting linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, a leader in the locker room who never appears to quit on a play, much less an entire second half of a game, informed the media that he was told at the start of the half that Davis quit and retired during intermission.
Alexander described Davis’ vanishing act as “completely disrespectful.” Alexander went on to say, “I don’t have anything to say about Vontae, I’m going to give him a little bit more respect than he showed us today as far as quitting on us in the middle of the game.”
That’s being kind to Davis, and certainly better treatment than he deserves after quitting on his team.
When the Bills traveled to Baltimore to open the season against the Ravens in Week 1, Davis was a healthy scratch, a befuddling move for a player expected to start opposite talented cornerback Tre’Davious White.
Management has to take some of the blame for this fiasco as general manager Brandon Beane and company opted to let a good, injury-prone corner back in E.J. Gaines walk in favor of signing Davis.
Davis, who signed a one-year deal during the offseason, was brought in to shore up Buffalo’s secondary. His Buffalo career got off to a slow start and Davis failed to stand out during limited preseason action.
Instead of serving as a mentor to White and the rest of Buffalo’s young secondary, Davis showed his immaturity. With Buffalo in dire straits at cornerback thanks to injuries to Phillip Gaines and Taron Johnson, instead of answering the bell and providing outstanding play, Davis took the easy way out, opting to take his ball and head for home at halftime.
“This isn’t how I pictured retiring from the NFL,” Davis later said in a statement posted on his Instagram account. “But today on the field, reality hit me fast and hard: I shouldn’t be out there anymore.”
Pro football is a physically (and mentally) demanding sport that requires complete concentration. Football players put their bodies through all sorts of physically-demanding activities to get ready for game day.
You cannot tell me that Davis’s decision to hang ‘em up was spur of the moment. While his teammates were busting their humps preparing to face one of the league’s top offenses in Philip Rivers, his head wasn’t in the game, and certainly wasn’t with his teammates. He was thinking of himself, first and foremost.
In all likelihood, Davis has known (or at least has contemplated) retirement for some time, and he should have talked to his coaches about his predicament. Instead, he showed up to New Era Field on Sunday, with his teammates and coaches counting on him, and he exited stage right while nobody was watching.
Davis walked out on his teammates who depend on him, and didn’t even have the decency to explain himself to his teammates, face-to-face. Instead, he relied on an Instagram post to justify why he walked away.
I say good riddance.
The Bills were expected to have a stellar secondary with White, Davis, and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. After Davis’ vanishing act, Buffalo finds its defense reeling after allowing 78 points through two games, and thin at cornerback.
But even if Davis, the former Pro Bowler, could have found his rhythm and helped the Bills’ secondary, Buffalo is a better team without Davis. Even if it means taking a step or two backwards this year, it is far better for the Bills to play with guys who want to be on the field, compared to talented cowards who don’t have the heart to play when the going is difficult.
As the newest member of the Bill Collectors, fans were excited to see Davis add to his career totals of 22 interceptions, 395 tackles, and 106 passes defensed during nine years with the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins.
Instead, Davis made one lousy tackle and displayed All-Pro elusive skills in bailing on his teammates and his coaches at halftime of the home opener.
People don’t respect quitters, and for this, Davis’ legacy has forever been tarnished.