By Teresa Varley
There were times recently when Najeh Davenport thought he would never play football again. He had been exploring other avenues, whether in the financial world or scouting, in an effort to get on with his life's work.
"It was like what's next," said Davenport. "One thing I had to learn was acceptance and patience. I didn't know if I would play football again."
But as we all know life has interesting twists and turns. One man's misfortune can open the door for another. And for Davenport, that is what happened.
When Rashard Mendenhall suffered a season-ending fractured shoulder and Carey Davis sprained his ankle on Monday night against the Ravens, the Steelers needed an experienced back. That's when Davenport's phone rang.
"I was on a plane for part of the game headed to Milwaukee," said Davenport. "I only saw the end of the game. But my friends started to call and told me about the injuries. Then, about one in the morning my phone rang and I was told I had a flight to Pittsburgh at seven am. That's how it works."
Davenport signed with the Steelers on Wednesday and was out on the practice field that afternoon raring to go.
"If it comes to it and I get the opportunity to play this week, I am sure I can do it," said Davenport.
No starter has been determined yet, but the Steelers at least now have three healthy backs with Mewelde Moore who came through in the clutch against the Ravens, Gary Russell who was signed off the practice squad and Davenport. Head coach Mike Tomlin knows Moore and Russell are ready to go and he is hoping the same is true of Davenport.
"It's our goal that he's going to contribute in some form or fashion this weekend," said Tomlin. "There are going to be some factors that determine that and of course one of them is his overall level of conditioning and another key factor is how quickly he comes back up to speed from assignment standpoint.
"He's aware of the culture that we have here. He's aware of the standards that we set. He's been on this bike before. He has to get back on it and ride."
So far, he hasn't had trouble doing that.
"I feel comfortable just hearing some of the stuff called and getting my self familiar with it and just going over plays in my head," said Davenport. "I am cool with it."