Vontae Davis is hurt. He’s hurt physically – “It’s a significant groin injury," he said – and he’s hurt emotionally. Six days ago, the Colts’ veteran cornerback was left behind in Indianapolis when the Colts went down to Houston for Sunday’s game, a decision Chuck Pagano and the organization repeatedly insisted was not “injury-related." But here was Davis Wednesday, talking at length about his demotion while expressing frustration – anger, really – at the way the Colts and their head coach handled his situation.
When asked about how recent events might impact his desire to return to Indianapolis after he becomes a free agent at year’s end, he smiled and said, “Change is good. Change is good. That’s all I’ll leave you with: Change is good."
Davis wasn’t primarily upset at his demotion behind new starter Pierre Desir; he acknowledged he’s not playing up to his usual standard and that his barking groin is the reason for his relatively poor play this season. “It’s just the way it happened," he said. "I’ve been here six years. We’ve had similar situations where I played hurt and I never got confronted and no one said, `Your play has slipped.’ Nothing. I was playing at a level that was acceptable.
“But now, my play slips and this? They should have come to me way earlier and said, `Vontae, you’re not yourself. You’re not playing well.’ I told the trainers my groin wasn’t responding."
First, he said he was upset that he learned of the demotion from defensive coordinator Ted Monachino and defensive backs coach Greg Williams and not Pagano, with whom Davis has had a long and productive relationship that included Pagano traveling to Puerto Rico for Davis’ 2015 wedding.
Second, he said he was upset that he was expected to engage in full practices, with two rest days in the last six weeks, but it wasn’t until the week of the Houston game that he learned of his demotion. He wondered, if he was hurt and his play was lagging, why not shut him down or limit him earlier?
Third, Davis said him and Pagano eventually had a spirited and not-so-friendly discussion about the decision to demote him, a discussion that ultimately inspired Pagano to leave Davis behind in Indianapolis. When I asked Davis, point-blank, whether there was a verbal showdown between him and Pagano, he responded this way:
“Yeah, of course, of course," he said. “You want to know why? I’m a grown man. There should be more respect. I’m a professional. I’ve been here long enough. This is more about respect than anything. I just feel like in this situation, there was no respect whatsoever."
Pagano? All he will say, all he has said, is that the decision was a “coach’s decision."
Honestly, it’s all just a little bit confusing. Check that: It’s very confusing. On the one hand, Davis conceded that his groin injury has negatively impacted his play and that he hasn’t performed like a former Pro Bowler. What bothered Davis was the way the demotion was handled, and the fact he believed he was being demoted for his play and not because of the injury.
Like I said: confusing.
“I had a talk with Coach and he told me I didn’t look healthy and I didn’t look like myself…from watching game film and knowing the high level I can play at,’’ Davis said. “You guys know I have a groin injury, a groin tear, and I got different opinions on it. One doctor said surgery, another said let it heal. I took the let-it-heal approach. I probably came back too early in the process, I probably hurt my teammates. In the past, I played hurt and was still able to play at a high level, but this time, I haven’t been able to play at that level because of the groin…"
Why, Davis was asked, did the Colts go out of their way to say it was not injury-related?
Davis, who is normally upbeat and smiling, shrugged.
“I don’t know whose fault that was," he said.
Davis conceded this has been a rough time for him because of the injury, his pending free agency and the rumors that the Colts tried to move him at the trade deadline.
“It’s really tough, but these are things that 9-year vets go through," he said. “I was demoted in Miami and that didn’t define me. This situation, I was demoted because of health and not ability, and this isn’t going to define me. I’m an optimistic person. I have confidence in my ability. I’ve just got to stay motivated, be a professional, help the younger guys."
He said he won’t play this Sunday against the Steelers. “No, I’m not playing again until I feel normal and can be Vontae Davis again and play at a high level," he said.
Clearly, Davis has not been himself, not in terms of performance or effort. To his credit, though, he has played through several injuries through his years here in Indianapolis. What he takes issue with, though, is the fact the Colts didn’t come to him and tell him to shut things down earlier.
He was asked: Why didn’t they do that?
“That’s the question,’’ he said. “I don’t know."
He continued: “I’m a grown man. It should be more about respect. I’m a professional. I’ve been here long enough. It’s more about respect than anything. I just feel like in this situation, there was no respect whatsoever."
Whatever you make of any of this – and personally, I’m still completely confused about what happened here and why – it’s clear the once-strong relationship between Davis and the Colts has run its course. Suffice to say, Colts management will not be at all thrilled to read and hear today what Davis had to say. The question is not whether he will be here next year; he won’t. The question is, how much longer will he remain in the Colts locker room? We likely haven’t heard the last of this.