Davis Excited for Extended Opportunity

Posted Aug 10, 2012

There’s little doubt in the mind of rookie quarterback Austin Davis that when Sunday morning arrives and the Rams head to their first preseason game against Indianapolis that he’s going to have some butterflies in his stomach.

As far as Davis is concerned, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Oh, I’m sure I will,” Davis said. “I have always heard whenever you stop getting nervous, you should stop playing. So I’ll be ready. It’s my first time playing in the NFL; it will be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to just getting out there and letting it rip.”

For Davis, the thought of his first NFL game might seem like a daunting task. After all, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind for him since he signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss after the draft in April.

Davis was an accomplished college quarterback, one who set nearly every major passing record in school history, surpassing NFL legend Brett Favre’s previous marks. 

But the adjustment to the NFL hasn’t been easy and Davis is working overtime to try to get up to speed as fast as possible in his first NFL training camp. By his estimation, playing in an actual game should help expedite that process.

“I’m limited for sure,” Davis said. “I have tried to take it all in and I’ve tried to study and do a lot but it’s a lot of information and it happens fast. I think all of us have prepared as best we could but you can’t replace experience. You’ve got to have experience. It will be good for all of us to just go out there and play, make some mistakes, do some good things, learn from those mistakes, all those things will be good.”

In a regular training camp practice, opportunities to improve on the field are few and far between for Davis and most of his younger teammates. Because the team is spending most of its repetitions preparing the starters and backups for the regular season, reps can be hard to come by for someone like Davis, who is third in the rotation behind starter Sam Bradford and backup Kellen Clemens.

Oddly enough, the preseason games actually provide more opportunities for players such as Davis because teams don’t want to endanger their starters by leaving them in too long.

“I think that’s what the preseason is all about; getting Sam, getting the starters a few reps and then Kellen will get a few reps but you don’t want to overdo it with those guys,” Davis said. “It’s all about the season for them. But at the same time for the 3s and the 4s and the guys on down the line like myself, it’s great reps. The reps are invaluable. Game experience is what we need at this level. It will be great.”
With what limited work Davis has been able to get in during the first two weeks of camp, he’s done enough to draw the praise of coach Jeff Fisher.

Entering camp, Davis figured to be embroiled in a battle for a potential third quarterback job with returning signal caller Tom Brandstater but when the third team actually does get reps, it’s Davis taking them.

Of course, it’s also possible the Rams could keep just two quarterbacks on the active roster and potentially stash Davis on the practice squad but that decision won’t be made for some time and a lot of that could be determined by how Davis fares in the exhibition schedule.

“Yeah, Austin has done a nice job,” Fisher said. “He has good feel for the offense. He picked up real quickly in the rookie camp, and he has worked hard and he studied while he was gone, and he’s done a nice job. But, again, we have to see how he does in a game.”
In the meantime, Davis is putting in as much time as he can to get a handle on the offense. For most rookies, learning a new scheme at the NFL level is complicated enough but playing quarterback and doing it for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can be extremely demanding.

Davis said Schottenheimer wants his quarterbacks to have a complete understanding of the offense with knowledge of everything from wide receiver splits to protection calls and everything in between.

Davis casts no false pretense that he’s anywhere near where he needs to be in terms of his development in that regard but said he spent a lot of time while away over the summer trying to stay in his playbook.

At the same time, Davis is careful not to burn himself out by cramming so much information into his head at one time that he doesn’t remember any of it the next day.

“Sometimes you have got to go get some rest and get away from the game,” Davis said. “You can’t just completely immerse yourself. You’ll go crazy and your studying won’t be as successful that way. There’s a balance but at the same time there is a lot to learn right now and there’s a lot of extra time spent just trying to take it all in.”

On Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis, Davis and many of his rookie teammates will get their first opportunity to make a strong impression on Fisher and his coaching staff in a game setting.

Fisher has said he wants to see his young players doing what they’re supposed to do and not trying to do more than they can do when given their chances.

For his part, Davis is certain to be nervous but that’s only natural. He’ll almost certainly play the bulk of the second half and though the result might not count in the standings, it undoubtedly will for players like Davis. 

“You can’t think about all that when you are playing,” Davis said. “You have got to know that and it’s just got to be natural reactions, that way you can just play. When you get out there in a game you can’t be thinking about all the little small things. Those things have to be second nature where you can just react. I’m not there yet by any means but that’s the goal.”

EARLY START: While players get the full game experience in the preseason, one thing they don’t normally get is the chance to go through what an actual, normal game day experience is.

That’s because the bulk of the preseason games are night contests that have players traveling the day before then sitting around all day waiting for the game the next day. It’s a bit of a scheduling quirk since the majority of regular season games are played on Sunday afternoons.

In this preseason, though, the Rams will get at least one opportunity to go through a relatively normal NFL Sunday experience. Sunday’s game against the Colts is set for 12:30 p.m. Central time, which will be similar to most of their noon starts this season.

“This allows us to do especially for the new guys that end up making the 53, they will have gone through the experience of playing middle part of the day on Sunday,” Fisher said. “You go through the experience of traveling, getting up early and kicking the ball off, rather than wait till 7, 7:30.”

REPLACEMENT REFS: Something that continues to appear in the news is the impasse between the NFL and its officials. Replacement officials are working all of the games in the first preseason week and are set to go through at least the second week.

There were some unfortunate calls in Thursday night’s games but Fisher said he isn’t letting his team worry about things outside of its control.

“I’m not concerned about it,” Fisher said. “I know the league and the officials union is trying to get things worked out. We’ll help them as best we can.”