ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** Patience didn't always come easy for Vernon Davis, and as the Broncos prepare for what could be their final or penultimate game of the season, he has needed it now more than perhaps ever before in his career.
After arriving in Denver in a midseason trade, Davis had to put his mind to quick use to learn a new offense. After playing nine snaps in his first game as a Bronco against Indianapolis in Week 9, he gradually became active, playing between 34 and 61 snaps in each of the following six games. But in the three weeks following Week 15's loss to Pittsburgh, Davis has played just 12 total snaps (five against Cincinnati, six against San Diego and one against the Steelers in the Divisional Round).
"I started off playing a lot when I first got here, as you guys know," Davis said. "Then all of a sudden, they started adding more plays and the playbook started getting bigger, and it's just been tough on me."
The Broncos continued preparation for the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Thursday. (photos by Ben Swanson unless otherwise noted)
Davis has been in his fair share of big moments for the Broncos already, though with varying success. He was an essential part of the Denver's road victory over the Bears in quarterback Brock Osweiler's first NFL start in the wake of Peyton Manning stepping back to recover from a torn plantar fascia. Davis had six receptions for 68 yards, and of those six catches, five were for first downs. However, on the other side of that coin, Davis had untimely drops in losses to Oakland and Pittsburgh that could have extended key drives late in those games.
"If you're out there [and] you don't really know what you're doing, you're going to be thinking, and not only that — you limit yourself," Davis said. "There's only so many places or positions [Head] Coach [Gary Kubiak] can place you because you don't know everything. This offense, it's a complex offense. It's not easy; it takes time."
The 10-year veteran said he's had difficulty adjusting to learning the offense on the fly during the season, and in that process—which also included two quarterback changes—his role has lessened recently.
"He's been a real pro, obviously, the last few weeks. He hasn't been as involved as he was a couple of other times during the year," Kubiak said. "I'm proud of Vernon. We've asked a lot of him. He came in here, learned a new system. He was working with Brock for a few weeks [and] now he's working with Peyton, so there's been some adjustments there, but he's fine. He's working hard. He's ready to go and I expect him to help us out."
Early expectations for Davis, a two-time Pro Bowler, were high as he joined a then-undefeated 7-0 Broncos team, and he was among those expecting big things.
"Coming here, I expected myself to jump right in and be Superman, but it's not happened like that. And I'm sure everyone else expected me to do the same thing, but, unfortunately, everything doesn't go the way we plan to," he said.
Davis says he still envisions that he'll be a part of helping the team win in the playoffs, just as he did previously with San Francisco, with whom he set an NFL record for touchdown receptions by a tight end (broken by New England's Rob Gronkowski a week ago against Kansas City). And so his patience is keeping him balanced as he prepares for when he is called upon in the game. "We have to be patient and we have to know that no matter what goes on in our life, when there's adversity and when things don't seem to work, you have to continue to fight and keep working even harder, and that's one thing I learned along my career. That's when you're supposed to work even harder, and that's what I've been doing. I've been studying and catching extra balls and just taking it to that next level, because you never know when your time is going to come."