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Old 10-21-2006, 12:43 AM   #1
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Default Davenport happy in the Steel City.

Davenport relishes Steelers' approach

Saturday, October 21, 2006
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After four seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Najeh Davenport is relieved to have a change of scenery. After four years of rules, fines and what he said was an emphasis on upholding a storied image, he is glad to be with a team that can laugh, joke and win. Not to mention not worry about his weight.

Davenport said it is one of the reasons he feels refreshed and invigorated with the Steelers, who signed him last month as a backup running back. And one of the reasons he already has made several big plays for his new team, despite limited appearances.

"This is a different atmosphere," Davenport said. "Green Bay, you really had to treat it like a job, like a job-job, like working at Taco Bell, not like a career job. Here, I don't see that. I don't get that feeling. You're here to play football and you're doing something that you love."

Davenport has been an instant contributor with the Steelers. The first time he touched the ball with his new team, he took a screen pass 32 yards against the San Diego Chargers, stiff-arming strong safety Terrence Kiel along the way, to set up a touchdown.

The first time he touched the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs, Davenport ran 48 yards to the Chiefs' 17 to set up another touchdown, though he was caught from behind by defensive end Jared Allen. He later had an 18-yard run and also scored a 1-yard touchdown on fourth down -- providing hope that, at 255 pounds, he can be the player to replace Jerome Bettis as the short-yardage back.

Davenport has touched the ball 15 times in only two games, but he is averaging 7 yards when he does. That number could be inflated some more tomorrow when the Steelers (2-3) play the Atlanta Falcons (3-2), a team that allowed 259 yards rushing in its 27-14 loss to the New York Giants last week in the Georgia Dome.

"It's crazy how you come from one extreme to another," said Davenport, who played at the University of Miami. "It's kind of like culture shock, coming from Miami and going to Green Bay, from a coaching aspect. And coming from Green Bay to Pittsburgh, as a team and organization, it's totally opposite.

"You're just playing. They don't stress you about anything. In Green Bay, you get fined for every little thing. That feeling they install in you, you don't get the ability, the freedom, to cut loose. You're afraid of the repercussions."

The Packers, arguably, are the most-storied franchise in NFL history, an organization that boasts three Super Bowl titles, the last in 1996, and six NFL championships. What's more, the Packers were 36-28 and had only one losing season (2005) when Davenport, a fourth-round draft choice in 2002, was there.

But, playing under coach Mike Sherman, Davenport said he grew weary of the team's regimen and regulations, an atmosphere he said he accepted as the norm until he came to the Steelers. He said players were fined $3,500 if they were late for a meeting, $8,000 if they missed a meeting.

Davenport said he was once fined $1,800 because he was six pounds -- $300 per pound -- over the team's desired playing weight of 242 pounds.

"Everything is monitored, everything is precise," Davenport said.

"There are a lot of restrictions on the way you played, how you play, how you look, when you play. Everything is upholding the image. Don't get me wrong, upholding the image of the organization is the No. 1 thing you try to do when you represent it. But they put more emphasis on the way you dressed for practice and stuff that really don't have anything to do with football.

"Don't get me wrong, it's a great organization with the history, but, to me, personally, they're not really changing with the times. They're kind of stuck in an era -- they won a Super Bowl and they got a couple championships -- and I think they're kind of stuck in that phase of how things were run then. Sometimes, you got to look at it -- it's a new year, a new millennium, players change, personalities change, style and trends change. You got to adjust to the trend."

Now he is with an organization that boasts five Super Bowl trophies, and the difference, he said, is more than palpable. His weight is not an issue with coach Bill Cowher -- "He said as long as you perform, it doesn't really matter," Davenport said -- and he feels comfortable in an environment that is more laid back, less regimented.

Davenport even said his image of Cowher -- "how he always looked mean and ferocious" -- is different.

"Coming here and seeing guys who are making plays, who won a Super Bowl, out on the field dressing like they want to dress. ... We couldn't sit on water coolers or sit on our helmets during practice [at Green Bay]," Davenport said. "There weren't really a lot of laughs or talking going on. Here, you see guys laughing, joking and competing. They got on cutoff shorts, some guys got on sweatpants; they got on yellow shirts, black shirts, gray shirt.

"During the individual period, when the defense is up, the quarterbacks and receivers are throwing the ball at the goalposts. They're in their own little world, having fun. That would never fly at Green Bay."
"Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened." Anatole France
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Old 10-21-2006, 12:51 AM   #2
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Default Re: Davenport happy in the Steel City.

excellent article. although at 255 i hope najeh isnt competing with duce for the gray sweatpants. it is pretty cool that cowher is such a players coach yet presents an image of a hard ass to the outsiders.

davenport must see he can be a great contributor here. i hope it works out and is an adequate fill-in for jeromes role in his latter days.

Last edited by tony hipchest; 10-21-2006 at 12:55 AM.
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Old 10-21-2006, 12:54 AM   #3
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Default Re: Davenport happy in the Steel City.

That is an awesome article... I hope he does very well with us. I think being happy with where you are makes all the difference in your performance in your career. I say this not just about football but, in general. If you are not happy at work you won't perform well there or away from work at home is the same thing. Balance is the key to the lives we live today...

I liked the guy ever since he touched the ball and ran 44 yards.
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Old 10-21-2006, 01:08 AM   #4
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Default Re: Davenport happy in the Steel City.

He's gotten my attention this year, hope he keeps it up
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Old 10-21-2006, 01:13 AM   #5
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Default Re: Davenport happy in the Steel City.

yup i agree good article and he can only get better:)
lets hope he steers clear of injuries .
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Old 10-21-2006, 04:16 AM   #6
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Default Re: Davenport happy in the Steel City.

I'm buying his jersey! lol j/k I wouldnt go that far yet but him along with Holmes this year have been my favorite two new players in the Steelers organization. I hope to see number 44 in the backfield for many years.

"If I could live my life over I would be a professional football player, and you damn well better believe I would be a Pittsburgh Steeler." - Jack Lambert
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Old 10-21-2006, 08:10 AM   #7
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Default Re: Davenport happy in the Steel City.

Beware of players that trash their former team - the Steelers can cite Bettis as a player who performed while battling (or sometimes apparently giving up the battle on) weight issues, but asking a big running back to keep the weight off and fining him when he would not do so seems like an appropriate request to me.

Playing loose is great, but this is not really the week for University of Miami alums to be giving any coaching staff a hard time about maintaining discipline.

I obviously hope Davenport works out but a guy that got cut by the Packers should not be criticizing anyone.
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Old 10-21-2006, 08:20 AM   #8
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Default Re: Davenport happy in the Steel City.

Good article. I wonder if Cowhers's demeanor and practices are quite so casual coming off a loss than the kind of win they had last week?

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Old 10-21-2006, 09:24 AM   #9
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Default Re: Davenport happy in the Steel City.

I agree AtlantaDan, GB is probably the most storied franchise in the NFL. If that's the way they run things there, that's OK. Sometimes I wonder if Ciowher is too leanient?

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Old 10-21-2006, 09:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: Davenport happy in the Steel City.

Originally Posted by Stlrs4Life View Post
I agree AtlantaDan, GB is probably the most storied franchise in the NFL. If that's the way they run things there, that's OK. Sometimes I wonder if Ciowher is too leanient?
I think any good boss knows that if your workers have good work ethics, they generally don't take advantage of a little slack time......I hate it when I give 200% and a boss gets all bent out of shape for a few minutes to chill. Have happy workers and you get better productivity all round. Treat them like adults....not preschoolers.
"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."
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