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O'HARA: Davis welcomes increased competition at linebacker

Jarrad Davis is preparing for his fourth season as a starting linebacker and defensive leader for the Detroit Lions like it was any other year, and without any concern about outside distractions and uncertainties.

The short take on his mindset: Davis is being himself, focused on his job and working to get better.

"No matter what's going on, I'm here to compete each and every day," Davis said Thursday in a Zoom interview with the Detroit media. "We've got a lot of guys in the room right now who are going to breed a lot of competition at the linebacker position and help us be a better defense.

"I'm really excited to get back to work. These past couple of weeks we've been doing all these virtual meetings. It's been a lot of fun. It's been pretty exciting to interact with everybody – to be in these Zoom meetings and whatnot and do all this stuff."

But it's not like any other year, either for Davis on a personal level in his status with the Lions, and for how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed daily life worldwide, including for sports leagues.

On a personal level, the Lions did not pick up the fifth-year option on Davis' rookie contract. He can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season, his fourth with the Lions after being drafted in the first round in 2017

Although the decision sparked understandable speculation about Davis' future with the Lions, head coach Matt Patricia spoke glowingly of him last week.

"He's in those big-picture plans in where we're trying to go," Patricia said. "He's a solid leader, everything you want in a program type of guy."

David did not seem upset by the decision or think it lessened his role as a leader.

"The situation is what it is," he said. "I'm going to keep coming to work every day, pushing myself and pushing the guys around me to be the best we can be."

There are some new faces in the linebacker room to push with.

Veterans Jamie Collins Sr. and Reggie Ragland were signed in the offseason. Collins is more of a pass rusher and should have no significant impact on Davis' status.

It's a different story with Ragland. He has been primarily a run defender since coming into the league as a second-round draft pick by Buffalo in 2017. He spent three seasons with the Bills and last year with the Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

"I wouldn't say it produces a chip," Davis said of adding potential competition to his primary position as an inside linebacker. "It produces excitement. These are guys who are very highly touted linebackers. I've been watching them for a long time in the NFL. I'm excited, honestly, to have them in the room with me.

"We've been bouncing ideas off each other, seeing what each other knows and continuing to develop relationships with each other. It's an exciting group to be part of."

Davis is hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 2019 season and play more to his 2018 level, when he had 100 tackles, with 10 for loss, 10 quarterback hits and six sacks. He missed five games last season with injuries and dropped to 63 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and only five quarterback hits.

"Yes sir, most definitely – I'm fully recovered," he said. "I just have to continue to work on my game -- the mental aspect right now and take full advantage of the opportunity we have in front of us."

The Lions, like all NFL teams, have started their offseason program with players and coaches working at home because of quarantines imposed to battle the deadly virus.

Davis, who ordinarily would be working out at the Lions' headquarters and training facility in Allen Park, said Thursday that he was at his grandmother's home in South Carolina.

The defensive players have regular meetings via Zoom with new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin and his staff under the frame allowed by NFL rules for various stages of offseason programs.

"It's a different way of going about it," Davis said. "I watch a lot of film. I go out on the field and do a couple drills to make sure I'm still moving pretty well, feeling good—doing what I need to do.

"It's always tough every offseason for a linebacker, and this one is no different, especially with the quarantine rules. I make sure I can get to a place and spend enough time somewhere where I can really work and develop those areas I'm weak in.

"I think that's the most challenging part from any other offseason, from the sense of what I need to do to figure out exactly what I need to do."

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