INDIANAPOLIS — One day after Vontae Davis complained publicly about how the Indianapolis Colts handled his demotion, his locker was empty and the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback was gone.
After 5½ seasons in Indy, it was over just that fast.
“I’ve been around a while,” safety Darius Butler said Thursday after Davis was released. “I’ve seen Randy Moss get traded, I’ve seen Peyton Manning get cut, so I can’t say I’m surprised.”
The move came exactly one week after Indy put injured quarterback Andrew Luck on injured reserve, ending his season. Now, they’re also missing their longest-tenured defensive player.
But the twists and turns that led to Davis’ departure were fast and strange.
As word leaked that the Colts could deal Davis before last week’s NFL trading deadline, Davis told reporters Indianapolis would always have a special place in his heart.
By Saturday, he lost his starting job and stayed home as his teammates traveled to Houston. The official reason listed by the team was “non-injury related.”
All coach Chuck Pagano simply said repeatedly was that he made the decision.
On Wednesday, Davis responded by claiming he never fully recovered from the torn groin he suffered during the Colts’ third preseason game and that the injury prevented him from playing up to his usually high standards.
Since then, general manager Chris Ballard has twice said on radio interviews the Colts were unaware of any lingering problems with Davis’ groin until Wednesday.
The injury wasn’t Davis’ only complaint. He thought Pagano, who attended his wedding two years ago, should have informed him of the demotion rather than defensive coordinator Ted Monachino.
“It should be more about the respect. I’m a professional,” Davis said. “I’ve been in (the league) long enough. When I look at the situation, I feel like there was no respect. Knowing Chuck, I figured it would come from him. It really bothered me.”
Then Davis apparently took it a step further.
On Thursday afternoon, Ballard was asked about a report from The Indianapolis Star that Davis had decided to have season-ending surgery after getting more medical opinions.
“That was a surprise, that was a surprise,” Ballard said.
It made it an even easier call for the Colts (3-6), who host Pittsburgh (6-2) on Sunday.
With the 29-year-old Davis in the final year of a four-year, $36 million contract, the prospect of him re-signing already looked bleak. Indy drafted two cornerbacks in April and has been impressed with last week’s starters — Rashaan Melvin and Pierre Desir.
All four players are younger, and will cost the Colts far less money to keep than Davis.
Add the verbal spat and the possibility of Davis not playing again this season, and the decision was easy.
“This isn’t about one guy. Nobody’s bigger than the team. I’m not. Nobody is,” Pagano said during a brief and surprise appearance Thursday. “We love Vontae, I love Vontae and I’m grateful for the contributions he’s made. But we’re putting this to bed. We’re not going to talk about it anymore.”
It’s not the first time Davis has been caught up in a public controversy.
He also was demoted during training camp in 2012 for not being in good enough shape to keep up with his Miami teammates. Three weeks later, he was traded from the Dolphins to the Colts.
Both of those episodes aired as part of the HBO series “Hard Knocks.”
This time could be tougher to accept.
Davis started the season with hopes of emerging as the Colts’ new defensive leader after Robert Mathis’ retirement. From the opening practices, coaches raved about his play.
Then he hurt his groin, missed more than a month and never quite got back to where he wanted to be.
“My tape isn’t horrible but my tape isn’t me,” Davis said Wednesday.
He had 21 tackles, no interceptions and two passes defensed this season.
In nine seasons, the first three with Miami, Davis started 112 of 120 games, had 399 tackles, two sacks, 97 passes defensed, and 22 interceptions, returning one for a score.
“I wish him the best and we will continue to do the best for the team,” Ballard said. “This was the right thing.”
NOTES: Starting defensive end Henry Anderson also will miss the rest of the season after being put on injured reserve with a laryngeal fracture. He was injured during Sunday’s game when he got hit in the throat. … The Colts also promoted receiver Matt Hazel from the practice squad to the active roster and added receiver KeVonn Mabon to the practice squad.