Jarrad Davis nearly walked away from his NFL career in the offseason, just four years removed from being a first-round draft pick of the Lions.
The former Florida linebacker ultimately inked a one-year deal worth $7 million with the Jets as a free agent in March, but not before he says he re-evaluated the priorities in his life, revitalized his outlook and concentrated on taking better care of his mental health.
“Definitely, man. I had to do a lot of soul searching personally, not knowing how things were going to turn out,” Davis said after the first full practice of training camp Wednesday in Florham Park. “Obviously getting the phone call in free agency from the Jets, it was really a blessing to know I had the opportunity to come in and get back to work and come to this scheme … and be able to play fast and just be myself out there.
“I’m excited every day, man. I wake up every day and just thank God for being able to come back out here. I love this game. I contemplated walking away, I really did, man. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have felt right doing something else. I’m glad to be out here.”
The 26-year-old Davis, a former teammate of Jets safety Marcus Maye with the Gators, struggled to make his mark in Detroit, finishing with 10.5 sacks in four seasons with the Lions. He made just four starts last season among 14 appearances and admits his mindset was affecting his play.
“Just not happy, man,” Davis said. “I was making the game everything and I was making myself the game, and when I was doing that, it didn’t feel right.
“Living like that, I was burning myself out. So I had to go through some things and take care of myself personally and emotionally and get back right.”
Superstar gymnast Simone Biles became the latest athlete to shed light on the importance of mental health this week at the Olympics, withdrawing from the team competition and the individual all-around event.
Davis said he worked on his mental well-being with a therapist in the offseason “to change the lens that I look at life through.”
Now, he is expected to start alongside returning middle linebacker C.J. Mosley in first-year coach Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defensive scheme for the Jets.
“The battle was up here, and I was losing that battle every single day,” Davis said, pointing to his head. “If you’re not OK, you’re not OK. And it’s OK to ask for help. It’s a very simple question, but it’s powerful. People need to understand that.
“Personally, I revalued things. Football is just something I do now, it’s not who I am anymore. I love this game and I’ve played this game since I was 6 years old. So doing that, it felt backwards to everything I was about. But at the same time, it’s so freeing to be out here now.”