Linebacker Davis no stranger to ad­ver­sity

All-pro ex­pects to play in Su­per Bowl de­spite bro­ken arm

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Steve Reed

char­lotte, n. c. » Thomas Davis knows all about pain and tough­ness.

So ex­cuse the Carolina Pan­thers’ all-pro linebacker if he snick­ers at the no­tion that 12 screws and a plate in his bro­ken right fore­arm will keep him out of the big­gest game of his ca­reer.

“I’m still look­ing for­ward to play­ing on Su­per Bowl Sun­day,” he said with aw­ide, know­ing grin.

Davis has over­come too much and at 32 has come too far to even think about miss­ing this one.

He is the first known NFL player to bat­tle back and play af­ter tear­ing the sameACL three times. It’s even more re­mark­able con­sid­er­ing he has re­turned to play at an all-pro level af­ter his third surgery in 2011.

Now, in a cruel piece of irony, the manwho haswaited 11 sea­sons to play in the Su­per Bowl breaks his arm in the NFC cham­pi­onship game, giv­ing him only two weeks to re­cover. The in­jury came in the se­cond quar­ter of a 49-15 vic­tory over the Ari­zona Car­di­nals.

“I was dev­as­tated for him at the time,” Carolina de­fen­sive tackle Dwan Ed­wards said. “The guy has been through a lot and is the heart and soul of our team. He’s our emo­tional leader, our play­maker on the field.”

Given what Davis has been through, team­mates aren’t sur­prised that he in­tends to face the Bron­cos next Sun­day in Santa Clara, Calif.

“Know­ingThomas, he is used to overcoming ob­sta­cles,” safe­tyTre Bos­ton said. “Hey, give me 12 screws and a plate in my arm and I’m not play­ing for a month. But noth­ing can hold back that guy.”

“I’m no doubt­ing Thomas,” cracked coach Ron Rivera.

Davis’ three knee in­juries cut short his sea­sons in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Still, he is as fast as ever and seems to be get­ting bet­ter each sea­son. He turned in per­haps his best sea­son in 2015, with 105 tack­les and ca­reer highs in sacks (5½), forced fum­bles (four) and in­ter­cep­tions (four).

And­while he­was go­ing through hun­dreds upon hun­dreds of gru­el­ing leg raises, squats and stretches to re­build his knee, Davis at times did con­tem­plate re­tire­ment. But, mostly, those were fleet­ing thoughts. In the back of his mind was the Su­per Bowl.

“I never re­ally look at it from a per­sonal stand­point,” he said. “It’s great for this team to be in this po­si­tion. We’ve worked so hard all sea­son long to ac­com­plish this goal and put our­selves in this po­si­tion to pos­si­bly win the Su­per Bowl, so it’s great to be in this po­si­tion as a foot­ball team, and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Davis won last year’s Wal­ter Pay­ton man of the year award for his com­mu­nity work. He has played all 11 sea­sons for Carolina.

Carolina Pan­thers linebacker Thomas Davis (58) is con­sid­ered the “heart and soul” of the NFC cham­pi­ons’ de­fense. He has over­come three ACL in­juries. Bob Leverone, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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