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Denver linebacker Andra Davis still has soft spot for Browns

BEREA — Andra Davis never dreamed he would play anywhere but in Cleveland, the adopted pro football home for him and his family.

Browns coach Eric Mangini let him leave without a simple goodbye.

Davis spent seven seasons with the Browns, who drafted him in 2002. He was their starting middle linebacker, leading tackler, mentor, captain and so much more.

‘‘He was like the grand daddy in the locker room,’’ said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. ‘‘If anybody had a problem, go to Dra. He’s got the best advice.’’

A free agent following last season, Davis had hoped to re-sign with the Browns. But when Mangini arrived from New York to take over in Cleveland, the 30-year-old Davis was not part of the future plans and was never contacted by the new coach.

‘‘I never spoke to him (Mangini),’’ Davis said. ‘‘The lack of conversations kinda let me know that it going was to be a different route.’’

The reality that he would no longer suit up for the Browns hurt Davis deeply.

‘‘It’s just hard to pack up and say goodbye,’’ he said. ‘‘I knew once I left Cleveland there was a good possibility I wasn’t ever coming back.’’

Davis landed in Denver, and this Sunday he’ll get a chance to show Mangini made a mistake on him when the Broncos host the Browns.

The affable Davis swears he’s not looking for payback. That wouldn’t be his style.

But don’t think he wouldn’t mind picking off a pass by Browns quarterback Brady Quinn and returning it for six points against his former team.

‘‘I’m definitely going to be excited about this one,’’ he said.

When the Browns didn’t make him an offer, Davis signed a two-year deal with the Broncos, who spent the offseason revamping a deplorable defense that ranked at or near the bottom in every major defensive category last year and surrendered 448 points.

He was a perfect fit in the 3-4 scheme employed by first-year Denver coach Josh McDaniels.

‘‘Andra’s got a lot of football left in him,’’ McDaniels said.

Davis felt wanted in Denver.

‘‘I had to come prove myself all over again, but they knew about me and they knew what I brought to the table,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s been a beautiful transition. I couldn’t ask for anything better.’’

Davis was a defensive mainstay at inside linebacker for the Browns, recording 833 tackles from 2002-08. Last week, he made nine stops and recorded one sack of Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer in Denver’s dramatic 12-7 win over the Bengals.

Davis’ debut with the Broncos was unforgettable. It ended with wide receiver Brandon Stokley hauling in a tipped pass and going 87 yards for the game-winning TD in the final minute.