Vernon Davis 'absolutely' returning to 49ers

Not that there was ever really a doubt, but Vernon Davis figures to return to the San Francisco 49ers next season.

Even after a down year that had the two-time Pro Bowl tight end rated as a “bad” player in a joint ESPN NFL Nation/Pro Football Focus project last month.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke told a group of Niners reporters Tuesday, per the Bay Area News Group, at the NFL combine in Indianapolis when asked if he envisioned Davis on the team next season.

“I think, if you look at those numbers, they’re not as daunting as you may think."

Fair enough. Let’s look.

Davis’ 26 receptions were his fewest since his rookie season of 2006 and his 9.4 yards-per-catch average was a career low.

He caught only two touchdown passes last season, after having 13 in 2013, and he was not targeted in the red zone after Week 1. Davis also had four drops, which was tied for eighth most among tight ends.

Not, ahem, daunting?

“It was an off year,” Baalke said. “He realizes, the great thing about Vernon is he understands, he’s been in this business long enough and he’s worked hard enough, he understands where his level of play is and still believes he can have some great years ahead of him, as do we. We look forward to having him a part of this.

“Vernon still runs like he ran coming out of college. He’s two, three percent body fat. Vernon takes extremely good care of himself, works extremely hard at his craft, sometimes players choose to do it on their own, sometimes they choose to get together and do it. As a general manager, as a coach, all you can do is look and appreciate that they’re out there working.”

Still, many questioned Davis’ commitment to football with such a dramatic falloff. Even with injuries, many wondered if he was more concerned with his personal profile, so to speak, as a stock.

Don’t count Baalke among those critics.

“Never have questioned Vernon’s commitment to playing the game, never a question,” Baalke said. “He’s never come into camp out of shape. He’s never come into camp less than motivated to have the best season he could.

“There’s a lot of circumstances that went into his decline last season and I think he’s looking, as are we, to the future, and coming back and having a heck of a year.”