The San Francisco 49ers are on a tear right now, off to a hot start, winning four of their first five games of the 2012 regular season. And to the surprise of the fans, they are doing it with much of the same personnel from past seasons.
The Niners returned all eleven members from the last year's defense, which has been a tremendous advantage. But the amazement does not pertain to the defensive side of the ball, because they are playing to expectations. It's the performance of the offense that has really taken fans by surprise.
After finishing 26th in total offense a year ago, the 49ers enter Week 6 ranked No. 6 in the league.
And even though they added Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs, A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James, the offense has been geared around the returning trio of Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis.
With so many playmakers on the team, there is zero room for ego.
And this is difficult, because the ego-driven athletes are typically offensive skill players. One way to counter this is to have established high-profile veterans on the team that set the example for newcomers, whether they arrive via free agency or in the draft.
On offense, the player that sets the bar is tight end Vernon Davis.
The 49ers Pro Bowl pass-catcher has been the model player since he career revelation. After the parental-like disciplinary action laid upon him by then head coach Mike Singletary, Davis had an epiphany: a selfish, me-first approach is no way to go through life.
Like a child being sent to his room after disrespecting his family, Davis was sent to the locker room in the middle of a game after he cost his team some very foolish penalty yards.
That No. 85 and the No. 85 that takes the field today are two completely different individuals - the difference is night and day. Not only as a player, but also as a person, Davis seems to have approached life with genuine enthusiasm and selflessness. As a blocker, receiver and decoy, Davis does everything within his power to give his team an edge week to week.
He has evolved into one of the league's more dangerous players because his physical gifts have finally aligned with the proper mental approach you need to have as a player. He's adopted the mentality you see in Hall of Fame caliber players.
San Francisco's elite tight end took to the podium this week in Santa Clara to field some questions on the upcoming game versus the New York Giants. One of the more interesting questions posed to Davis was regarding the team's mental and philosophical approach to football.
I don't think since I've been here, that we've ever really had a selfish guy, beside myself. At one point I was selfish, and I admit it, I was. That's because I was young, I didn't know, I was trying to find myself and just trying to figure it out. You know, I looked up to guys like Terrell Owens and others guys in the league and I thought that's what it was about, but it wasn't. So I had to change some things. And when I changed, everything started to work out. Everyone started to respect me; the coaches, the players. And I started to put it all together.
And since I put it together, as I started to look around, there were more guys like myself. Everyone was all about the team and it's still that way. Everyone is about the team. Randy [Moss] is not worried about how many catches he gets. I'm not worried about how many catches I get. As long as we win, I'm having a good day, because that's what it's about. It's about winning. It's about getting to the playoffs and trying to advance to the next level after that, and we all know what that is.
Continuing in his constant state of ascension, Davis has amassed 20 receptions for 303 yards and four touchdowns so far in 2012.
He's been a top receiving threat for the 49ers, standing out as one of the more efficient pass-catchers in the league. The energy he brings not only helps him as an individual, but it helps guide the players around him. That kind of selflessness is infectious, and certainly helps that it's sourced from such a high caliber player.
This sort of attitude will keep this team close together, moving in forward motion.
"We just want to win games," Davis concluded.