When approached by the media in the locker room Friday, Rashied Davis stated that he didn't want to discuss football.
Although it seems early in the Super Bowl process for Davis to have grown weary of the constant demand for quotes, he might well have a point. After all, how many times can a usually patient player be expected to compare the NFL experience with his days as a two-way threat for the San Jose Sabre Cats in the Arena Football League?
But if Davis thinks the pressure is on now, wait until he gets to Miami.
“Ha! It's way too soon to burn out on interviews," laughed Dante Wesley, Davis's teammate and five-year veteran who played in Super Bowl XXXVIII with Carolina. "This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as that kind of thing goes.”
Wesley's advice? “Answer the questions, then they'll leave you alone.”
The Bears have been preparing for this moment since training camp began. And there's been plenty of time to become comfortable with the pressures that come with success, a fact that Davis eventually conceded. Settling back into his locker, Davis sighed and began to speak.
“I guess for me," Davis said, "this entire experience will be how I want to remember things years from now. Do I want to look back and think that I had a great time at parties and ended up losing the game? Or do I want to know that I gave every possible effort to help this team succeed and waited for the parties until I got back home? Easy decision. I've decided the celebrations can wait.”
For Davis, right now, it's all about focus and desire.
"The skills are already in place," Davis said. “If that wasn't the case, then we wouldn't be in this position. So I think it's a matter of staying even, of concentrating and making sure that we approach this as just another game. A game where a heck of a lot of people will be watching, but a game nonetheless.”
This is Davis's second year with the Bears. After a season spent on kickoff and punt returns, he's currently excelling as a wide receiver. He has 22 receptions - many of them coming in crunch time - for 303 yards to date. Claiming no preference as far as position is concerned, Davis says he'll play wherever he's told to line up.
“You know in my Arena days, the NFL seemed like an impossible dream,” Davis said. “I wanted to get to this level so badly, but it seemed out of reach. When I finally made it, I felt that I had some kind of a responsibility to all the guys who are still in Arena. I want to show that we have the skills and the desire to do well. If anything, I think my gametime experience in Arena has helped me with what I needed to do in the NFL.”
Davis has also found that his Arena playoff experience is beginning to come in handy.
“We went to the Arena Bowl when I was a rookie," he remembered. "Great time. Did well. Then we went again the following year. Great experience. So I have some idea of the pressures involved in that kind of a big game. I'm expecting that to help me relax once we hit the field in Miami.”
Davis has worked extensively with Rex Grossman this year and is quick to come to Grossman's defense when asked if his quarterback is good enough to bring the Bears a win in Super Bowl XLI.
“What does Rex need to do to prove himself after the kind of season we had?” Davis asked. “The Bears certainly couldn't have gotten to - what is it now? - 15-3 without his hard work. I think we match up well. I can sense where he's going to throw, and he knows where I'll be on the field. Together we seem able to move the ball pretty well.”
Davis worked his way up from a hardscrabble beginning and graduated from San Jose State, an achievement he mentions with pride.
“It certainly wasn't easy," he said. "But I think that is another thing that will help me be successful next weekend. I know the importance of finishing what I've started. Really, all of the players understand that concept. We aren't flashy guys. We may not be household names, but we work hard and get it done.”
And Davis has no intention of taking this opportunity for granted.
“I know so many guys who may never get this chance,” Davis said. “But here I am. This is proof that nothing is impossible if you try hard enough. I feel so blessed. I'm thankful and thrilled to be here right now. So if I get short with [the media] from time to time, just realize it's only because I want this so much."
Davis feels fortunate to be in this position and appears more focused than ever.
"I don't want anything or anyone to distract me from giving this game everything that I can.”
Beth Gorr is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry.