Since the postseason loss to New Orleans Saints in 2018, rumors stirred that 14-year veteran Thomas Davis would consider retirement after the 2018 regular season. The linebacker had spent his entire career with the Carolina Panthers and became a model franchise player. On the evening of January 9th, the Panthers announced via Twitter that they would not bring back Davis for a 15th season.
3 Pro Bowls.
Man of the Year.https://t.co/47oON38M2h
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 10, 2019
Davis was not only a fan favorite in Carolina but a great team leader as well. The move will most certainly impact the Panthers both on and off the field.
The Tough Reality
What this move says is that football is a business and every team works as a corporation just like any other profitable company you can think of. While Davis has been great for the Panthers defense, he is not getting any younger. The 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner will turn 36 at the end of March and Carolina is a team that desperately needs to get younger on defense.
Davis did hint at retirement much of the prior off-season but the linebacker claimed a few times during the regular season that he would reconsider. Towards the end of the season, Davis announced that he would love to come back for another year and his play showed. Despite missing the first four games of the season due to suspension, the three-time Pro Bowler finished tied for second on the team with 79 tackles.
After the Panthers broke the news that they were heading in a different direction, Davis shared a video on his Twitter account saying he feels like “he has more football in him.” Davis is set to become a free agent this off-season and will likely have offers from many teams. It may be weird for Panthers fans to see Davis in another NFL uniform but by the look of things, he may not be the only long-time veteran that leaves Carolina this off-season.
Davis was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the first round with the 14th overall pick of the 2005 draft. The former Georgia Bulldog was drafted as a safety and appeared in 16 games his rookie season playing alongside Mike Minter. In his second year, John Fox and the Panthers coaching staff decided to move Davis back to outside linebacker and he went on to have three solid years at the position.
In 2009, Davis tore his ACL in early November and was placed on the injured reserve. After a lengthy rehab process, Davis returned to minicamp in 2010 and tore the same ACL for a second time. Davis went on to miss the entire 2010 season but was ready by the start of the 2011 season. However, bad luck struck a third time as Davis tore the same ACL during the Panthers second game of the season. That was his third tear in 23 months, a feat that no professional athlete has ever come back from.
Davis contemplated retirement but decided to give it one more shot. In 2012, the linebacker unit was much more competitive and Davis started out the season as a backup. But after an injury to Jon Beason, Davis got his opportunity to start again and became the first professional athlete to successfully return to play after three ACL tears. He finished the year with 105 tackles.
From 2013-2018, Davis became a great sidekick to All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly and was voted to the Pro Bowl three consecutive seasons from 2015-2017. Davis was also voted first-team All-Pro for his 2015 season after recording 105 tackles and a career-high 5.5 sacks. Davis also went on to win the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2014 for his off-the-field community service work.
One of Davis’ most memorable moments as a Panther will be his heroic efforts in the Panthers playoff run of the 2015 season. Davis suffered a broken arm in the NFC Championship game but vowed he would play in the Super Bowl. Davis had his arm heavily wrapped and wound up recording seven tackles and one tackle for loss. Here’s what his arm looked like after the game.
— ESPN (@espn) February 8, 2016
The Panthers have a lot of great linebackers in their history but few represent the franchise’s ‘Keep Pounding’ motto as well as Davis did.
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