During Will Davis’ bleakest days as a professional, when simply getting out of bed was a struggle, Brent Grimes called on him to commiserate — and to encourage.
Davis tore his ACL and meniscus midway through the 2014 season; the medical setback was the latest speed bump in a career that has spent too long in neutral. Grimes was the perfect sounding board; he ruptured his Achilles tendon in 2012 but ultimately made a full recovery.
“He just told me, straight-up, about his career,” Davis said. “He didn’t really have a lot of chances his first three, four, five years until he got his shot. And when he got his shot, he’s just been taking off. It’s just a credit to why he’s bouncing around at his age. That’s what he was telling about the situation he’s had. Don’t be discouraged at all. Everything at the end of the road could be brighter than you ever think.”
Grimes speaks from experience because, frankly, he’s experienced. Some might even call him old — at least for his position.
He turned 32 in July, a time when most cornerbacks reminisce about what was, not talk about what can be.
But bring up the idea of his life post-football, and Grimes will quickly swipe the subject aside. When asked if there will be a hole in his life upon retirement, Grimes shrugs.
“I don’t know,” the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback said recently. “I’m not there yet.”
He will keep playing as long as the Dolphins (or any other team) let him, and as long as he’s having fun.
And despite some drop-off late in the 2014 season, Grimes insists he’s as good as ever. Contrary to popular belief, football players’ bodies don’t automatically turn into the Tin Man upon their 30th birthdays.
“I guess I’m lucky,” Grimes said. “Everybody says that, but I really don’t have the problems that other people do. If I did have problems like that, it wouldn’t be fun for me. I don’t really have that those problems.”
There’s that word again. Fun. Nobody has more of it on the football field. He’s a perpetual motion machine at practice. And his positive attitude rarely wavers.
If that ever changes, he will file retirement papers with the league, Grimes insists. He said he won’t be one of those hangers-on who are simply “collecting checks.” Pro football will always expose those not fully committed; they will either embarrass themselves or get injured.
Grimes doesn’t want either. He has dealt with being injured. And he was a part of a defensive collapse last season that was, well, embarrassing.
The Dolphins allowed 193 points over their final six games, stumbling to 2-4 down the stretch. Injuries played a role, but there were plenty of healthy defensive players who missed assignments or blew their techniques.
“We fought and fought and fought, but we just fell apart at the end of the year,” Grimes acknowledged. “No other way to get around it. We fell apart. We have to try hard not to let that happen again.”
If it does, massive changes are coming to Miami. The coaching staff will surely be replaced. And the next regime could want to go younger. Which means this could be Grimes’ last, best chance to make a run.
For all the Atlanta Falcons’ success during the past decade, he never was part of a postseason win with his former team. Atlanta reached the NFC title game the year Grimes sustained that year-ending lower leg injury.
“Yeah, you think about it,” Grimes said of Father Time’s ticking clock, “but I approach every [season] the same way. I just play my game as well as I can. You try to tell all the other people and lead by example.
“Tell other people what to do, help when I see other people not doing things right. I try to help them out and things like that. That will help us get to the next level. It’s not what year you are in the league. I can go out and play, never mess up the whole game, and we still could lose. You’ve got to play your game. That’s why it’s a great team game.”