Re­union with Davis, Tom­sula

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - SPORTING GREEN - By Eric Branch

In Novem­ber 2015, the 49ers traded tight end Ver­non Davis to Den­ver, where he had just 20 catches in nine games and wasn’t re­tained af­ter the sea­son.

Two months later, the 49ers fired head coach Jim Tom­sula, who spent the fol­low­ing year out of the NFL and the pub­lic eye. What­ever hap­pened to those guys? As it turns out: They’re work­ing near the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

The 49ers will re­con­nect with those fa­mil­iar faces Sun­day when they visit Wash­ing­ton, which has pro­vided Tom­sula and Davis a chance to do what they did best in Santa Clara.

Tom­sula, who ap­peared over his head as a head coach, is back in the trenches. Wash­ing­ton’s de­fen­sive line coach is a rea­son why Wash­ing­ton, which ranked 24th in the NFL in rush­ing de­fense last year, is 10th this sea­son. Dur­ing his eight-year ten­ure as the 49ers’ de­fen­sive line coach, the 49ers’ run de­fense ranked fourth in the league.

“He’s had our de­fen­sive line­men play­ing at a much higher level than be­fore,” Wash­ing­ton

head coach Jay Gru­den said.

Mean­while, Davis, 33, was signed by Wash­ing­ton last year by then-gen­eral man­ager Scot McCloughan, who drafted him with the No. 6 pick in 2006. Last sea­son, Davis had his most catches (44) and yards (583) since 2013.

This sea­son, af­ter he was re­warded with a three-year, $15 mil­lion con­tract, he has eight catches for 160 yards and a 69-yard touch­down that was his long­est catch since 2009.

“He runs still as fast as any­body on our foot­ball team,” Gru­den said. “He’s in amaz­ing shape. He’s a good blocker. He was a great pickup for us when we got him. … He’s been a great weapon for us.”

Wash­ing­ton had no trou­ble lo­cat­ing Davis on the freeagent mar­ket, but Tom­sula was a dif­fer­ent story.

Af­ter his 5-11 sea­son, Tom­sula went off the grid and wasn’t heard from for over a year. In fact, Gru­den didn’t know if he was still in­ter­ested in coach­ing — and he didn’t know where to find him to gauge his in­ter­est.

“It was not easy, I’ll tell you that,” Gru­den said. “He’s not the guy that will call you right back af­ter a call, ei­ther. I had to wait a lit­tle while and be a lit­tle pa­tient, but fi­nally he called.”

Tom­sula has re­turned with a fa­mil­iar de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, Greg Manusky, and a new look. Tom­sula and Manusky were col­leagues from 2007-10, when Tom­sula had a thick mus­tache and mid­sec­tion. This sea­son, Tom­sula has elim­i­nated the fa­cial hair and dropped weight.

Tom­sula, who sti­fled his pub­lic per­son­al­ity as a head coach, sounds more com­fort­able in his old role. In June, he told re­porters his wife said he looked “scrag­gly” and im­plored him to shave and shape up.

“I said, ‘Ok, let me shave that off,’ ” Tom­sula said. “She said, ‘And by the way, you’ve been fat for 20 years. Lose some weight.’ So I got on a diet and shaved my mus­tache. I’m not dye­ing my hair though.”

For his part, Davis also has dif­fer­ent look. Nin­ers safety Eric Reid sug­gested he’s play­ing with a bit more fire af­ter his ca­reer ap­peared to have flamed out.

“I think his ca­reer has been re­vived,” Reid said. “He looks re­ally good. He’s block­ing a lot harder than he has in the past. He’s run­ning a lot more routes. They’re us­ing him. He’s back to the younger Ver­non Davis.”

As it turns out, Reid is one of the few faces who was with the team when Davis and Tom­sula were last with the 49ers in 2015. The 49ers have just 14 other play­ers on their ac­tive ros­ter who were with the team two years ago.

Davis was among the many play­ers jet­ti­soned in re­cent years. He was ini­tially dis­ap­pointed about the trade, but, like Tom­sula, he ap­pears to be com­fort­able in his cur­rent spot.

“You get to a point where you move on. You un­der­stand it’s the na­ture of the busi­ness. It hap­pens,” Davis said to Wash­ing­ton-area re­porters. “You play with the team, you get traded, or just some­thing hap­pens. For me, it’s just an­other game. I’m just re­ally, re­ally ex­cited to be able to see some of the fa­mil­iar faces that I had to cul­ti­vate re­la­tion­ships with.”

Reed Hoff­mann / As­so­ci­ated Press

For­mer 49ers head coach Jim Tom­sula, left, is sport­ing a new look with Wash­ing­ton as its de­fen­sive line coach. Tight end Ver­non Davis has re­ju­ve­nated his ca­reer in Wash­ing­ton.

Lee Cole­man / Icon Sportswire via Getty Im­ages

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