Rashied Davis will be Lions' glue

You might have missed it. Many people do when it comes to what Rashied Davis does on a football field. But if you weren't still talking about the Detroit Lions' surgical opening possession of the preseason Friday night, you might have seen Davis sprint 40 yards downfield, converge on Cincinnati Bengals kick returner John Griffin and alertly fall on a fumble at the Bengals' 16-yard line. Four plays later, the Lions had a 14-0 lead.

No matter how many blue-chip players a team might have, it can't win without the "glue guys" who fill in the gaps and keep it all together. Davis spent six years in that role for the Chicago Bears, and when the Bears lost sight of that value this summer, he jumped to a Lions team that was thrilled to get him.

Perspective is necessary here. I don't want to suggest Davis will be the difference between a 6-10 and 10-6 season for the Lions. But here's what I can tell you: No matter where I turned last week at Lions training camp, someone was telling me how excited they were to have Davis on the roster.

"I can't say enough about him," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "That's the kind of pro you want to have. I'm able to show the young guys that this is a 32-year-old veteran that is a special-teamer. Been in this league X amount of years because he just does everything 100 percent and right. That's just been a great example for those guys.

"I think he's somebody to keep an eye on. He's going to be out there playing on our special teams a lot. You're going to see him jump in there on offensive plays and be an effective receiver for us. He's really caught my eye out here an don the field."

Most NFC North fans know Davis' story. Unwanted by the NFL after finishing his college career at San Jose State, Davis played in the Arena Football League and worked in a Best Buy during the offseason. The Bears signed him in 2005, and he played both cornerback and receiver for them while providing a building block for their elite special-teams group.

No one was more surprised than Davis when the Bears replaced him with free agent Sam Hurd, who will presumably take Davis' spot on their special teams and give them a different look on offense.

"If you look at any interview I did before this happened," Davis said, "I did it as if I was still a Bear. I had every indication that I would be a Bear at the end of last season. But God has different plans for you all the time. I just try to go where he wants me to be. I feel like this is where God wants me to be right now for whatever reason."

Lions coach Jim Schwartz developed a long-distance admiration for Davis in 2008, when he was preparing for a matchup with the Bears as the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator.

"We hadn't played the Bears in three years," Schwartz said. "I didn't even know who he was. I mean literally, I remember [current Lions linebackers coach] Matt Burke was doing the quality control and on Monday, he brought me [the scouting report] and I'm like, 'Who is Rashied Davis?'

"He's like, 'Ah, he played Arena ball. He was a corner. And he was a solid wide receiver.' But what I remembered is that he played with such a great mentality. He played with a defensive mentality playing wide receiver. He was blocking, he was finishing plays and all those things.

"I went up to him after the game and I said, 'Man, I never knew who you were but I know now. I've got a lot of respect for the way you played in this game.' It's interesting that four years later, all of a sudden he swings back around."

You're not going to see Davis make 75 catches in the Lions' offense, and you probably won't see him reprise his role as a cornerback. You'll have to really pay attention to see how he makes the Lions better. He'll be in the right position to recover a fumble. He'll always get 6 yards downfield on third-and-5. He'll teach Calvin Johnson something he never thought of. He might inspire one young player to find extra work after practice, as he himself was the day I talked to him.

"I personally feel like every adult has a responsibility to himself and to society as a whole to give back," Davis said. "It's part of my nature and who I am. So I try to show guys by example how to be a professional. ... I always practice hard. I do my best to be on point and be on top of everything and also teach them a few little tricks that I may know, especially the smaller guys.

"They might be little small tricks, little nuances about the game, especially on special teams. I guess I'm really known for being a really good special-teams player. I try to impart some of those things I have learned ... throughout the years, some things that you may not necessarily learn from a coach that's actually out there and the tricks that I've learned and seen other people that have helped them."

The Lions' 2011 fortunes rest on the shoulders of the players we've discussed for months: Quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Johnson and others. Rashied Davis' job will be to fill the gaps and cover the potholes that get in their way.

"We just have a lot of respect for how he came into the league," Schwartz said. "You can't help but respect that. And then he comes out and works his hardest every single day. That's a great example for our players."