SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -Vernon Davis claims he never heard that smattering of boos at Candlestick Park last weekend when he couldn't catch two long passes from J.T. O'Sullivan.
The San Francisco 49ers' imposing tight end still figures it's only a matter of weeks until those boos turn into raucous cheers, now that Davis is with an offensive coordinator and a quarterback who are determined to help him reach his lofty potential.
``I'm just out here working hard and getting ready for that chance I've got coming,'' Davis said Thursday after another post-practice workout with O'Sullivan. ``Just run, and the ball will be there. That's what my coach tells me.''
As the San Francisco fans' boos attest, Davis is edging toward that fine NFL line between Promising Prospect and Possible Bust early in his third NFL season.
' second-leading receiver last year, but he still hasn't become a game-breaking pass-catcher in the mold of Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, as many expected when he left Maryland. Though he's a capable receiver and an occasionally inspired blocker, he still makes mental mistakes and sometimes struggles with the tougher receptions.
Davis has just four catches for 68 yards in the 49ers' first three games, but offensive coordinator Mike Martz remains firmly committed to getting the tight end involved in his vaunted offense. Davis is fifth on the 49ers in receptions so far, with just one more catch than fullback Zak Keasey and backup tight end Delanie Walker, a fluid pass-catcher who played receiver in college.
But Martz clearly is intrigued by the challenge Davis presents to a veteran schemer. Just as Davis didn't have a coach who really knew what to do with him last year, Martz hasn't ever really had a tight end with Davis' speed and abilities.
``He's done a real good job,'' Martz said. ``We missed him on a couple of throws in the past week, and those things are real close. Just keep hammering at those, and you'll make them eventually. ... For a guy that big and strong to catch the ball going full speed 40 yards down the field is not easy to do. He's done a good job with keeping speed and winning on those routes.''
week's 31-13 win over Detroit, the 49ers clearly intended to get the ball to Davis early and often, but two long passes from O'Sullivan didn't connect. Davis' lack of familiarity with O'Sullivan played a role, since the first pass was underthrown - and Davis then ran too slowly to catch up to the second pass, thinking it also would be underthrown.
``He's definitely a fast guy, you can't deny that,'' O'Sullivan said. ``But I don't think of it differently when he's running a route than when somebody else is running a route. Everyone out here is pretty fast. Anybody we're going to throw the ball to down the field is going to be a fast guy. I just have got to put a perfect ball on him.''
That's only going to happen through practice, so O'Sullivan and Davis have been staying on the 49ers' fields after workouts this week to hone their timing. Davis described the importance of being mindful of his exact location on the field all the time, particularly against the disciplined defense he'll face in New Orleans.
Running precise routes and paying attention to receiving technique are just another part of Davis' evolution - and he hopes his growth is soon obvious to fans at Candlestick.
``We're going to get this offense together, and then nothing is going to stop us,'' Davis said. ``I'm looking forward to being a big part of that.''

NFL Team Pages

Sports Insights' Advanced Betting Tools - NFL Free 14-Day Trial