49ers Tight End Vernon Davis Says His Best Work Lies Ahead
San Francisco made him the most highly paid tight end in league history, handing him a $37 million contract extension after his breakout 2009 season -- 13 touchdowns, tying the NFL record for tight ends.
It took a long time for Davis to arrive. He had critics early on, including coach Mike Singletary during his first three seasons with the club. But in establishing career highs with 78 catches and 965 yards, he opened Singletary's eyes and the 49ers' wallet -- the contract guarantees him $23 million.
"He deserves everything that he gets,'' Singletary told the San Francisco media when the announcement was made.
Antonio Gates, the San Diego Chargers star who was the first tight end with 13 TDs, set the previous financial record with a $36.2 deal ($20.4 million guaranteed) in July.
The fact that he's passed Gates isn't lost on Davis.
"It says a lot, being the highest paid tight end,'' Davis said. "But what it all boils down to is that I'm not playing this game for the money. It's about the passion in my heart. It's what I've been doing since I was a kid and I love the game.''
While Davis' 2009 numbers were stellar, he seems to believe he has much more to offer after having been named to the Pro Bowl team for the first time last year.
"I don't feel like I had a breakout season,'' Davis said. "I still have a lot to prove and a lot of work to do, and I look forward to winning games.''
Davis is the second player the 49ers have locked up recently. A couple of months ago they got linebacker Patrick Willis' name on a five-year, $50 million package.
"You're talking about two of the finest players at their positions in the league,'' Singletary said. "That's very exciting for the organization.''
And Singletary made Davis a team captain last year, which says plenty about the respect he gives his tight end.
"All you have to do is look at the identity of the 49ers and Vernon fits it,'' Singletary said. "He is that guy. It's what he represents. So when you have a guy like that, you want that guy to be out in front of your team. We're very fortunate to have him here and he's a great role model for the rest of our players.''