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 SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -Vernon Davis is showing a knack for getting under his teammates' skin. As long as the San Francisco 49ers' brash tight end develops an equal aptitude for getting into the end zone, those same teammates think he's headed for a breakout season.
After an uproarious opening week of training camp that included a fight with veteran lineman Larry Allen, Davis insists he'll never put his own interests ahead of his team.
A thoughtful aspiring painter off the field, Davis shrugs off the percolating comparisons to Terrell Owens, Brandon Lloyd and Antonio Bryant, San Francisco's last three top pass-catchers who became ego-driven distractions. Davis says he's smarter and more team-oriented than Owens - even if he sometimes plays like a bigger, stronger version of T.O.
``I'm going to do my thing - show off when I catch the ball, things like that,'' said Davis, the sixth overall pick in last year's draft. ``But when it comes down to it, I need these guys, this team.''
With remarkable skill and an imposing physique to go with an unquenchable work ethic, Davis' greatest challenge seems to be quelling the exuberance that sometimes irks his teammates. It already produced a scuffle with Allen during a scrimmage on Saturday.
The sight of a 23-year-old tight end challenging Allen - an 11-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman and one of the NFL's most respected veterans - was both intriguing and disturbing to 49ers fans in attendance.
``It will help him grow up, help him mature,'' 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. ``I don't want to take any of the passion, the excitement that he has, because Vernon isn't going to back down from anybody. That's what you love about him.''
Davis and Allen exchanged words while leaving the field after the first-string offense failed to score on the second-team defense, and they nearly traded blows before teammates separated them and pulled Davis 50 feet away, where he continued to scream at Allen. The teammates made up later, with Allen stoically chalking up the confrontation to Davis' youth.
``Every once in a while, you get someone on the team that you get into it with,'' Davis said. ``It's part of being a teammate. We're cool, we're fine.''
But when Nolan isn't marveling over his tight end's talent and scheming new ways to use it, the coach worries Davis could be made an example by NFL officials determined to cut down on taunting.
``He's so passionate, so emotional about things,'' Nolan said. ``The officials right now are going to have a tendency to throw a flag on it, because they think it's taunting, and they don't know the difference. A guy that's as emotional as he is, that gets excited - and he does a lot of talking - he has to be very careful.''
Davis knows his outbursts aren't always a good idea, particularly in practice - but he feels passion is contagious, and nothing livens up a dull weekday training-camp workout better than an excited teammate. He has baited teammates before, goading linebackers Jeff Ulbrich and Tully Banta-Cain to the verge of confrontations before backing off with a smile.
Sometimes his passion goes hand-in-hand with his impressive skills: In a clip already up on YouTube from last week's practice, Davis dominates linebacker Brandon Moore in two consecutive blocking drills - and Davis celebrates in between, playfully taunting Moore and nearly setting off yet another fight.
``Sometimes in the morning, you've got guys out (with injuries), and not everybody is really in tune,'' Davis said. ``I just figure I'm the one guy that can get everybody going.''
Davis had 20 catches for 265 yards last season, missing six games with a broken leg. He scored on his first catch against Arizona, but didn't get rolling until late in the season - and he carried that momentum into offseason workouts, where he was the talk of the training complex.
Davis and Shawne Merriman turned each other into first-round draft picks during their daily practice battles at Maryland, with Merriman becoming a Pro Bowl linebacker in San Diego.
``In high school, everything I did, I was passionate about it,'' Davis said. ``In college, I just took it to a whole new level, especially playing with Shawne Merriman. He's just as passionate as I am. It was me and him, every day, every snap, just getting after it. When you've got a guy on your team who's competitive, you're going to stand up beside him and show him you can do the same thing.''

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