Since professional wrestling icon "Nature Boy" Ric Flair spoke to the team last week, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis was asked whom he wanted to address the team before Sunday's NFC Divisional round game at Carolina. Davis smiled and named R&B icon Beyonce.
He probably wants her to sing the hit single "Irreplaceable," so when he catches a touchdown, he can have the lyrics "you must not know 'bout me. You must not know 'bout me" already stuck in his head.
Surely, the Panthers must not know 'bout Davis. He missed the second half of the 49ers' 10-9 home loss to Carolina in November with a concussion. Without him, San Francisco's offense packed the potency of a wet firecracker.
With Colin Kaepernick left to force-feed Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham and Vance McDonald, the 49ers failed to muster a point after halftime. When the game hung in the balance, and the home team desperately needed a score, San Francisco desperately missed its big, reliable target.
That's why even though the schedule shows Carolina won in San Francisco, it still hasn't beaten these 49ers. And Davis is eager to show the Panthers how much of a difference he makes.
"I can't wait. I can't wait," Davis said. "I didn't play in that game. I think I went out before the half. But I'm excited to get back in there. A fresh new start. We get to play the game all over again, another opportunity. It's going to be pretty exciting, and I look forward to the match."
Davis is an All-Pro tight end in the regular season. In the postseason, he's producing like a Hall of Famer.
In Sunday's win over Green Bay, he caught his sixth postseason touchdown -- tying him with Keith Jackson and Jay Novacek. The only tight end with more playoff scores is Raiders legend Dave Casper.
More glaring than the quantity has been the impact of his scores. That's why 49ers fans are so "Crazy in Love" with their stud tight end.
All six of his Davis' playoff touchdowns have given the 49ers the lead. The most memorable, obviously, was his game-winning catch against New Orleans in 2012, which he famously boo-hoo'd all the way to the sideline.
His touchdown against the Packers, a 28-yard catch on a post down the middle, gave the 49ers the lead and swagger back right after as 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive had given Green Bay momentum.
Certainly, the 49ers could end up needing Davis to come up big again. Carolina is one of the best in the NFL against the run. That should again put pressure on San Francisco's passing game.
"When you look at the Panthers, they're just well-rounded," Davis said of their vaunted defense. "Linebackers. The secondary. Up front. They're just a tremendous group of players and they play well together. They're going to be tough. They're good tacklers. ... They're fast and aggressive. They're doing a terrific job as far as stopping guys, stopping different teams week after week. So we're really going to have to look at the film from the last time we played those guys and just get on it."
Carolina would be wise not to put much stock in the film from its win at San Francisco. Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly figures to have a lot more to worry about with Davis in the lineup.
Even when he isn't catching balls, the threat of a tight end that runs like a wide receiver is paramount to the 49ers offense. In his quietest games, Davis is a magnet for defenders. That frees up space for Michael Crabtree and Boldin. Also for Kaepernick's gazelle-like strides.
And just when you think he's been taken out of the game, just when defenses forget about him, that's when Davis tends to strike. And if Carolina isn't ready for him, Jim Harbaugh's squad will be a step closer to putting a ring on it.