For months, Vernon Davis insisted he wasn't concerned about a contract extension, saying it would all take care of itself in time. Even after San Francisco 49ers teammate Patrick Willis received a hefty new deal in May.
"I didn't let it bother me," Davis said. "I prayed about it. My grandmother prayed about it."
That patience paid off. Now, Davis is the highest-paid tight end in NFL history.
Davis signed a five-year extension with the 49ers on Saturday, one day before the team opens the season at NFC West rival Seattle as the division favorite.
Davis heard from his agent Friday night that things were a go. Davis is relieved to have this done before the season begins, thus avoiding entering free agency after 2010.
"It's a beautiful thing, especially going into the season not worrying about it," Davis said. "It's not weighing heavy on my mind. Just go out on the field and continue to perform."
Davis received a $37 million extension with $23 million guaranteed, NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported, citing a league source. In July, San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates signed a then-record five-year, $36.175 million extension that included $20 million in guaranteed money.
Gates is a six-time Pro Bowl pick, while Davis is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance following a breakthrough 2009 season.
"Being the highest-paid tight end at my position says a lot, but when it comes down to it, I'm not playing the game for money. It's about passion," Davis said. "I didn't let it (not having a big deal) get to me because the only thing I could focus on is football. One thing about me once the season starts, I'm 100 percent football and that's all."
Davis, who's entering his fifth NFL season, led the 49ers in 2009 with 78 catches for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns, matching Gates' NFL record for scores by a tight end. Davis also tied New England's Randy Moss and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald for the league lead in touchdown catches.
"I found myself saying this earlier this spring: I couldn't be happier for an individual to sign a contract extension and be with the 49ers for five more years, and that was Patrick Willis," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said in a conference call Saturday night from Seattle. "Now that Vernon has signed, you're talking about two of the finest players at their positions in the league. I'm very happy for Vernon because he deserves everything he gets."
Davis has 181 receptions for 2,097 yards and 22 touchdowns in his career.
Drafted sixth overall in 2006 out of Maryland, Davis started eight games as a rookie and has been a regular, when healthy, ever since. He also is a team captain, a good blocker as well as a threat over the middle and deep.
Singletary said he has no concerns about the money going to Davis' head.
"Vernon is a guy, if you find a guy who comes in and he's one of hardest-working guys on your team, if not the hardest-working guy on your team, what's going to change him?" Singletary said. "That's been the mark of Vernon Davis since he got here."
In extending Davis' contract, the 49ers have made deals with two of their best players -- on either side of the ball. Davis joins Willis, the Niners' All-Pro linebacker. New vice president of player personnel Trent Baalke orchestrated the extensions in two significant moves since he took over football operations following the abrupt departure of general manager Scot McCloughan in March.
Once known for scuffling with teammates, Davis has become a team leader under Singletary. They have had their moments in the past, too.
Singletary sent Davis to the showers early during the coach's debut in October 2008 against the Seahawks for the way he reacted to a personal-foul penalty. Davis has come a long way since that day, taming down his once volatile antics and not letting opponents get to him on the field.
Davis, 26, considers growing up a big part of his success -- and he largely credits Singletary in that transformation. Singletary knows Davis will come to play every game and every practice, and have fun in the process.
"All you have to do is look at the identity of the 49ers and Vernon fits it," Singletary said. "We're very fortunate to have him here. He's a great role model for the rest of our players."
Davis and second-year wide receiver Michael Crabtree got into a verbal on-field spat during a training-camp practice, after which Davis said he was simply displaying his leadership. Singletary, who stepped between the players and took both to the locker room for a chat, also said he appreciated Davis' efforts, though perhaps not his methods.
Davis said afterward he was frustrated by some things Crabtree did that he "didn't like."
"It was a matter of being a team captain. All I was doing was taking care of my responsibilities and doing my job," Davis said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.