Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

WFT’sDavis set to retire after 16seasons

Veteran linebacker has returned to field after three torn ACLs

- BY MICHAEL PHILLIPS mphillips@timesdispa­ (804) 649-6546 Twitter: @michaelpRT­D

ASHBURN— Sunday will be the last regular- season NFL game for Washington linebacker Thomas Davis, who starred for many years for the Carolina Panthers and who will see a distinguis­hed 16- year NFL run come to an end.

Davis was a free agent this offseason and opted to sign with the Football Team. He hasn’t seen much playing time but said he felt strongly about finishing his career alongside coach Ron Rivera, his longtime coach with the Panthers.

“I had three teams that I had an opportunit­y to go and play for,” Davis said Wednesday. “When the opportunit­y came up to go and play here, it was a nobrainer. To be able to close my final year out with coach Rivera, and help kind of set the tone for the culture change, I felt like it was important for me to be a part of that.”

Davis said he’s not interested in being a coach long- term but hopes opportunit­ies will come along in the broadcasti­ng world.

He’ll have a shot at induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though he is by no means a sure thing.

On Sunday in Philadelph­ia, he’ll wear custom cleats commemorat­ing his career. Among his achievemen­ts— he is the first pro athlete to suffer three torn ACLs and return to the playing field after each one.

“When I tore my ACL for the third time ( in 2012), like, in my mind, my career was done,” he said. “Because I was a veteran. I had been around the league a while. And you don’t see guys get opportunit­ies after going through things like that.”

Instead, he responded in 2013 with one of his best campaigns.

He was also named the league’s Walter Payton Manof the Year in 2014, paying tribute to his off- thefieldwo­rk and character.

That’s what led Rivera to bring him to Washington, where the coach’s stated goal is to transform the culture. Davis sees big things in the team’s future.

“You see guys buying into some of the things coach Rivera is preaching to us,” he said. “I knew coming in what he expected, what he wanted out of us. It just took some time for the guys to adjust and kind of go away from the old ways they were accustomed to.

“I think once guys bought in, you could see the maturation process start to take place with this football team, and I really think the sky is the limit for this team as they move forward. Next year, after they add a few more pieces, I think this is a team that’s going to be a playoff contender for years to come.”

Davis noted this week’s release of quarterbac­k Dwayne Haskins as a sign that Rivera means business.

“If you’ve got a first- round pick that can be released after two years, than anybody is susceptibl­e to be released at any point, so you’ve got to make sure you’re always doing the right things,” he said.

Now Davis will have a chance to go out with one of the more bizarre division titles of all time, as 6- 9 Washington can win to claim an NFC East title.

Davis said he thought the team could beat expectatio­ns this year, but didn’t quite see things unfolding like this.

“I kind of felt like we had an opportunit­y,” he said. “Never in a million years would I have imagined the NFC East would be this bad. But, you know, herewe are.”

Note: WFT quarterbac­k Alex Smith practiced for the second consecutiv­e day Friday and is listed as questionab­le for Sunday’s game at Philadelph­ia with a calf injury that has kept him out of the past two games. If Smith can’t go, former Old Dominion standout Taylor Heinicke will get the start. Two of the offense’s top weapons, WR Terry McLaurin ( ankle) and RB Antonio Gibson ( toe), also are listed as questionab­le. Neither practiced this week.

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