Panthers OLB Thomas Davis: ‘My trainers are trying to protect me from myself’

CHARLOTTE — A first-round pick of the Panthers in 2005, Thomas Davis successfully made the transition from safety to outside linebacker early in his career. Last year, he was building on a breakout ’08 season before a torn ACL sidelined him for the final eight games.

In five seasons with the Panthers, Thomas Davis has 312 total tackles and 11 sacks.
In five seasons with the Panthers, Thomas Davis has 312 total tackles and 11 sacks.

Working hard in the team’s offseason program to recover from the injury, Davis talked to Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer and other reporters about the rehab process, playing alongside Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason and what he expects out of the Carolina defense without Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers.

Q: How are you feeling six months removed from the knee injury?
A: My leg is feeling great right now. My trainers are trying to protect me from myself. It’s something that’s hard for me right now, out here watching everybody compete. I want to get in, but at the same time, I know it’s not the best thing for me to get out here and do the seven-on-seven things we’re doing.

Q: How have you maintained a positive attitude through your rehabilitation process?
A: At first, it was hard. But then once I sat down, I prayed to God to take that pain off my heart and everything started to fall into place. I knew I couldn’t sit around and be sad about it. I had to get out there and work hard to get back to where I am. I think I’ve done a great job of working hard.

Q: How comfortable are you in this cover-2 defensive scheme?
A: This defense is built for a fast linebacker, somebody who can move, and I feel like I fit that well. Coach (defensive coordinator Ron) Meeks has put me in a good position to make plays, and we’ve been able to capitalize on it. I’m just looking forward to starting back up strong and finishing strong this time.

Q: How do you and Beason stack up among the NFL’s best linebacker combinations?
A: Beason, he’s done his job. He’s done everything he possibly can for this franchise. He’s done everything he’s needed to do. Now it’s up to Thomas Davis to make that happen. I feel like I’m in a position right now where I can make that happen. It’s up to me to do my part so we can become the best tandem in the league.

Q: What are you thoughts on the defense going into the ’10 season?
A: I love this defense. We have a lot of guys that are coming into position right now, filling in spots. They’ve been waiting for their opportunity, and now they’re getting it. So we’re looking forward to what they look like and when we get in there and compete with other teams.

Q: Without Peppers, how’s the team effort coming along to replace him on the pass rush?
A: I think we’re jelling very well. You have a lot of young guys who are eager to win and eager to play. So it’s going to be exciting to see us line up and see us compete, and I think we have a lot of competitive guys on this team.

Q: When everyone’s flying out there healthy, would you say you have one of the league’s fastest, most aggressive defenses?
A: That’s how this defense is built up. That’s the mind-set of our coach, defensive coordinator and our other coaches on the staff. We know that we have the talent in place; now it’s about us going out there and applying it.

Q: Most of the talk has been about Peppers’ absence on the line. How do you feel about the talent level in the linebacker corps and secondary?
A: All the components, once we get them into place, the back seven is going to make the front four better. The front four will make the back seven better. We are definitely looking forward to putting everything together, and just going out there and jelling as one.

Vinnie Iyer is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

CHARLOTTE — A first-round pick of the Panthers in 2005, Thomas Davis successfully made the transition from safety to outside linebacker early in his career. Last year, he was building on a breakout ’08 season before a torn ACL sidelined him for the final eight games.

In five seasons with the Panthers, Thomas Davis has 312 total tackles and 11 sacks.
In five seasons with the Panthers, Thomas Davis has 312 total tackles and 11 sacks.

Working hard in the team’s offseason program to recover from the injury, Davis talked to Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer and other reporters about the rehab process, playing alongside Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason and what he expects out of the Carolina defense without Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers.

Q: How are you feeling six months removed from the knee injury?
A: My leg is feeling great right now. My trainers are trying to protect me from myself. It’s something that’s hard for me right now, out here watching everybody compete. I want to get in, but at the same time, I know it’s not the best thing for me to get out here and do the seven-on-seven things we’re doing.

Q: How have you maintained a positive attitude through your rehabilitation process?
A: At first, it was hard. But then once I sat down, I prayed to God to take that pain off my heart and everything started to fall into place. I knew I couldn’t sit around and be sad about it. I had to get out there and work hard to get back to where I am. I think I’ve done a great job of working hard.

Q: How comfortable are you in this cover-2 defensive scheme?
A: This defense is built for a fast linebacker, somebody who can move, and I feel like I fit that well. Coach (defensive coordinator Ron) Meeks has put me in a good position to make plays, and we’ve been able to capitalize on it. I’m just looking forward to starting back up strong and finishing strong this time.

Q: How do you and Beason stack up among the NFL’s best linebacker combinations?
A: Beason, he’s done his job. He’s done everything he possibly can for this franchise. He’s done everything he’s needed to do. Now it’s up to Thomas Davis to make that happen. I feel like I’m in a position right now where I can make that happen. It’s up to me to do my part so we can become the best tandem in the league.

Q: What are you thoughts on the defense going into the ’10 season?
A: I love this defense. We have a lot of guys that are coming into position right now, filling in spots. They’ve been waiting for their opportunity, and now they’re getting it. So we’re looking forward to what they look like and when we get in there and compete with other teams.

Q: Without Peppers, how’s the team effort coming along to replace him on the pass rush?
A: I think we’re jelling very well. You have a lot of young guys who are eager to win and eager to play. So it’s going to be exciting to see us line up and see us compete, and I think we have a lot of competitive guys on this team.

Q: When everyone’s flying out there healthy, would you say you have one of the league’s fastest, most aggressive defenses?
A: That’s how this defense is built up. That’s the mind-set of our coach, defensive coordinator and our other coaches on the staff. We know that we have the talent in place; now it’s about us going out there and applying it.

Q: Most of the talk has been about Peppers’ absence on the line. How do you feel about the talent level in the linebacker corps and secondary?
A: All the components, once we get them into place, the back seven is going to make the front four better. The front four will make the back seven better. We are definitely looking forward to putting everything together, and just going out there and jelling as one.

Vinnie Iyer is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

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