BEREA — Andra Davis descends the stairs into the basement of his new Denver home and is instantly transported back to Cleveland.
His No. 54 Browns jerseys and the jerseys of his former teammates hang on the walls. His plain orange helmets and the game balls he collected in his seven years sit on the shelves.
“Just being a Cleveland Brown is something that will always be dear to my heart, to my family’s heart,” Davis said Wednesday on a conference call. “My daughters, they still cheer for the Browns. My oldest girl said she’s probably going to root for them this week.
“Being in one place seven years and developing all kind of relationships, you just don’t forget that.”
He never wanted to leave.
He wasn’t given a choice.
Davis’ contract expired just as the Browns were going through their latest front office overhaul. The new regime of coach Eric Mangini and general manager George Kokinis had no allegiances to anyone, and Davis had looked a step slower in the last couple of seasons, his production had decreased and he lost his starting spot for six games in 2007.
Was there any chance he was going to be brought back?
“You’ve got to ask Mangini that. I don’t know that, I never spoke to him,” Davis said. “The lack of conversations kinda let me know that it was going to be a different route.”
Mangini re-signed just one free agent — safety Mike Adams — and went about bringing in his own guys. Inside linebacker Eric Barton was high on that list and stepped right into Davis’ spot.
“We looked at all the different guys that were here,” Mangini said. “It just wasn’t able to work out here, but I think he’s done a great job for them. I know he’s a smart guy, good guy, hard-working guy, all those things that are positives.”
Davis knew there was a chance he’d be leaving, but that didn’t make it any easier to take.
“It’s just hard to pack up and say goodbye,” he said. “I knew once I left Cleveland there was a good possibility I wasn’t ever coming back.
“So many people in the city of Cleveland I have respect for, I have a lot of love for. I miss a lot of those folks.”
The feeling is mutual. The Browns locker room is filled with guys who can’t say enough positive things about Davis, their former captain. He still sends text messages telling them to work hard.
“You’re not going to meet a nicer guy than that,” said inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who lined up next to Davis for three seasons. “Forget the football part of it, he’s just a good human being. If I had a son, I would want him to be similar to ’Dra.
“He was like the granddaddy in the locker room. If anybody had a problem, go to ’Dra. He’s got the best advice. I can’t wait to see him.”
The Davis household is just as excited for the visit. Daughters Alisha, Amber and Andrea call Jackson, safety Brodney Pool and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley their uncles.
“My oldest girl is crazy about Qwell and my middle daughter is crazy about Brodney. They go at it all the time, neither one can say anything bad about those two guys,” Davis said. “They’re so excited to see them on Saturday. That’s all they’ve been talking about every day, ‘We’re going to see Uncle Qwell and Uncle Brodney.’ ”
Jackson hopes to have enough free time to see the Davises’ new home. He expects Davis’ wife, Monique, to make one of her famous pies and to get bombarded by the girls.
“Anytime I went over there Alisha would run around all day,” Jackson said. “I’d have to chase ’em up and down the stairs. I let them beat me up when they wanted to.”
Davis is fitting in well with the Broncos. New coach Josh McDaniels went after him to help the transition to the 3-4 scheme, he signed a two-year deal and assumed a starting spot. He had nine tackles, a sack and led Denver with three tackles for loss in its 12-7 opening win over Cincinnati.
“It always helps when you can watch a guy play and play well and perform a lot of the things you’re asking of the player when he gets here,” McDaniels said. “Our defense is a better defense because we have Andra Davis. He’s got some football left in him.”
When Davis walks down those stairs to his basement he’s reminded of the past that will never be too far away, no matter how many miles he’s west of Cleveland.
“My Cleveland Browns days are definitely over. I’m a Denver Bronco now. I’m very excited about being out there,” he said. “But I’m hoping they win all the games except this week. I’m definitely one of their biggest fans.
“I thank Mr. Lerner for giving me an opportunity to be a Cleveland Brown. I wish we could have won more. I wouldn’t change anything other than that.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.