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NFL

Numbers down, but Niners' TE Davis stays positive

| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 7:06 p.m.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — From the way Vernon Davis struts and smiles around the 49ers' locker room, it might be hard to tell the tight end has endured a “stressful season.”

Not once has he complained or pouted about his limited touches. Davis even laughs about how he might have reacted in his younger days if the ball so rarely came his way.

“Coaches wouldn't like me,” he said, chuckling.

A year ago this week, Davis had the defining moment of his career in a thrilling 36-32 playoff win over New Orleans. He made a leaping 14-yard touchdown catch while getting smashed by safety Roman Harper, which sent the tight end running to the sideline in tears and the 49ers to the NFC championship game.

A year later, Davis enters San Francisco's NFC divisional playoff against the Packers on Saturday night as somewhat of a mystery. He's perhaps the most proven and prolific threat for the 49ers, though his role has diminished in the last six weeks.

Davis finished with 41 receptions for 548 yards and five touchdowns this season. All three are his lowest since he caught 31 passes for 358 yards and two TDs in 2008.

“It is a different feeling for me because it's been a tough season as far as just the feeling of being involved,” said Davis, now 28. “It just feels different going into these playoffs, as far as my role and things like that. It's not a bad thing, I'm not mad at it. That's just how it is sometimes.”

Davis has tried to stay focused, not frustrated, and he's happy so long as San Francisco (11-4-1) keeps on winning. Anytime he begins to think otherwise, Davis said, he thinks back to that final catch against the Saints as the shining example of how he might be called upon at any moment.

Hard to believe considering how his season started out, catching four touchdown passes from Alex Smith in the first three games. He didn't score again until Colin Kaepernick's first start in Week 11.

In the six games since, the chemistry between Kaepernick and Davis has evaporated.

Davis has six catches and no touchdowns during the span, and he left early in a Week 16 loss against Seattle because of a concussion that also limited him in the regular-season finale against Arizona. Coach Jim Harbaugh has repeatedly said Davis remains an integral part of the game plan each week, touting the tight end's pass protection and blocking downfield. He insists Davis draws double coverages on almost every play, freeing up others to make plays.

“They're wary of getting beat by Vernon Davis,” Harbaugh said. “I think that's the biggest, greatest share.”

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