LB Don Davis was the Bucs' second-leading tackler on special teams in 1999
Fifth-year LB Don Davis participated in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' post-draft mini-camp, but wasn't on the field for most of the team's voluntary summer workouts. He didn't get hurt or fall out of favor with the Bucs' coaches; Davis just wasn't signed yet.
In fact, Davis is one of the coaches' favorites when it comes to special teams, where he has excelled throughout his NFL career. The Buccaneers have continuously placed on emphasis on strong special teams play since Head Coach Tony Dungy arrived in 1996 and brought on Special Teams Coach Joe Marciano. They reconfirmed that emphasis on Friday with the re-signing of Davis to a one-year contract.
With four seasons of NFL experience under his belt, Davis entered the 2000 offseason as an unrestricted free agent, one of a handful of their own free agents that the Bucs wished to re-sign. Though it took a little longer than most of the others, Davis was brought back into the fold on Friday and will now enter training camp hoping to prove his value on special teams once again.
Davis played in 14 games in 1999 and was the Bucs' second-leading kick-coverage tackler with 21. He has been consistently productive in that role as a professional, averaging over one special teams tackle per game (49 stops in 46 games).
The former Kansas Jayhawk first joined the Bucs as a waiver claim in the middle of the 1998 season. Though he had played in five games for the New Orleans Saints and contributed four tackles on defense and one on special teams, Davis was released on November 24 and eagerly snatched up by the Buccaneers the next day. Though he was not considered a replacement for Hardy Nickerson, who missed the last six games of '98 with pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac around the heart, Davis did become available at exactly the right time. Tampa Bay had just placed Nickerson on injured reserve, opening up a roster spot and a hole in the linebacking corps.
Davis made his presence felt immediately, recording two kick-coverage tackles against Green Bay (12/7) in just his second game in a Buccaneer uniform. He added another special teams stop two weeks later at Washington (12/19), then made his biggest impact with a blocked punt at Cincinnati (12/27) that led to an easy Tampa Bay touchdown.
Davis originally entered the NFL as a college free agent with the New York Jets in 1995. He spent two weeks of that season on the Kansas City Chiefs' practice squad, then opened the next season in Chiefs' camp. The Saints signed Davis to their practice squad at the beginning of the 1996 regular season after his release from the Chiefs, and he played in 11 games in each of the next two seasons in New Orleans, quickly becoming a special teams standout.
Davis was one of a host of dedicated special teams players that Marciano used to build the league's second-ranked kickoff-coverage unit and seventh-ranked punt-coverage squad in 1999. Dungy recently expressed satisfaction with the quality of the Bucs' special teams, though he wants to focus on improving the team's results on returns. One of the league's most respected special teams coaches, Marciano is expected to construct a strong unit again in 2000. With Davis now onboard, Marciano retains one of his key building blocks.