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O'HARA: Davis primed for leadership role with Lions

Jarrad Davis is a quick study, but with an added level of patience on how and when he should exert his personality as a young leader on the Detroit Lions' defense.

After two weeks of rookie minicamp, Davis and the other rookies will begin working with the veterans when OTAs begin next week. It's an important step up for Davis, who was drafted in the first round to play a major role at middle linebacker.

Davis has been around the veterans, but he is looking forward to practicing with them.

"I'm really excited for the OTAs to come up," Davis said Friday. "It's going to help me as a rookie coming in, being able to get comfortable with what the speed of the game is like – what the intensity of the game is like, how we operate as a team.

"You can only do so much in rookie minicamp. When you get out there with the older guys, the veterans who have been here for a while who know exactly how things go down and how the whole operation goes down, you've got to either hit the ground running and catch up or get left behind."

The Lions don't plan on Davis getting left behind. At the Taste of the Lions event earlier in the week, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin indicated strongly in an interview on WJR-760 that Davis is expected to step in immediately at middle linebacker.

"He fills an immediate need for us," Austin said. "He's smart. He's confident. I think you're going to like what you see from him."

Austin doesn't believe in holding rookies back if they're ready to play.

"If you see a guy as a young player who's got the potential, whose got the ability, why would we hold him back?" Austin said. "If there are guys ready to play, I'm not holding them back for anybody. We have a saying in the coaching profession: 'Are you saving them for the next staff?' No way."

Middle linebacker is a special position that requires more than physical ability. The best middle linebackers are strong leaders, who direct the defense and lead by example.

Davis displayed those qualities as a four-year player at Florida. He knows that he's expected to do the same with the Lions.

"I think it's huge," he said. "You hear everybody say that position is the quarterback of the defense.  To be able to play that position, you have to make sure you're on top of your game and every phase of the game.

"Whether that be in the meeting room. Whether that be in recovery. Whether that be in the weight room ...  maybe how you wake up in the morning and put your pants on."

Davis made a joke about putting his pants on.

"They say everybody puts their pants on the same way," he said. "I might be a little biased. I put my pants on a little different than everybody else. I'm not going to tell you how.

"No, I'm just messing with you. You've got to be able to attack that position. You're not just going out playing for yourself. You're playing for your brothers. You've got to make sure you can lead them when you get in tough situations."

Davis has been around veteran teammates Tahir Whitehead and Paul Worrilow, who have starting experience in the NFL, and others on the linebacker depth chart. They've already helped Davis make the transition to the pro game from what he did in college.

"It's very similar, but it's the NFL," Davis said. "There are a lot more nuances – a lot more things we have to cover than you have to cover in college. The biggest thing is the terminology."

There's also an adjustment to taking over as a leader, which goes with playing middle linebacker. For Davis, it's a question of timing.

"It's not the same, but there are some similarities as walking on campus as a freshman the first time," he said. "You have to come in and earn the respect of the older guys. You're not going to come in and raise your voice and talk to an older guy who's been in the league doing this for six, even, eight, nine years.,

"You're not going to be able to tell them, 'This is how we're going to do it; this is how things are going to go.'"

For Davis, there is an evaluation process in that regard – for himself, and what he observes from teammates.

"I'm working every little piece of the game," he said. "Every little aspect in my mind to make sure I know how to address my teammates and how to push them when it's time for me to step up and take that role."

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