SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) - Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said it isn’t enough that he’s coming off the most productive season of his nine-year NFL career after tearing the ACL in his right knee three times.
He wants more.
The 31-year-old Davis is still stinging from being passed over for his first Pro Bowl after posting a career-high 123 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery for the league’s No. 2-ranked defense.
Davis, entering his ninth season, said he’s using the perceived snub as motivation.
“Obviously the league doesn’t know about me yet,” Davis said. “So my goal going into this season is to earn the respect of the league. I know that I have to be better than I was last year because obviously last year wasn’t good enough.”
With Davis anything seems possible.
He’s the first player in NFL history to play in a game after suffering three torn ACLs in the same knee.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, a former NFL linebacker for the Chicago Bears, has in the past become emotional when talking about Davis’ never-dying determination.
“His story, to me, is amazing,” Rivera said last year.
Davis is no stranger to snubs.
Despite his grueling physical and mental rehab from three surgeries, it was Peyton Manning who won the AP Comeback Player of the Year in 2012 after the future Hall of Fame quarterback had a stellar return to action in Denver following neck surgery.
Davis’ teammates said it was even tougher watching him get passed over for the Pro Bowl last year by outside linebackers John Abraham from Arizona and Ahmad Brooks from San Francisco. Together, Abraham and Brooks had 32 fewer combined tackles than Davis. However, voters apparently went for their sack production - Abraham had 11.5 sacks and Brooks 8.5.
“He had a tremendous season, especially after all of the things he’s been through,” Panthers defensive tackle Dwan Edwards said of Davis. “To come back and put up a tremendous season, but also help us win 12 games, It’s crazy to think that he didn’t make it. But stranger things have happened in the NFL.”
Said Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn: “In my opinion he was a snubbed.”
Davis’ injury problems began in 2009 when he tore his left ACL in a Week 8 game against the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome, ending his season. The following spring he re-tore the same ACL while back-peddling during practice, ending his 2010 season before it began. He returned in 2011, but tore it again two games into season sending him to injured reserve for the third straight year.