Thomas Davis waved Jon Beason's jersey prior to Sunday's game then got herself. (Photo by John Clark)
CHARLOTTE – Linebacker Thomas Davis tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee for the third time in less than 23 months and is done for the season, an MRI revealed Monday.
The team has placed Davis on injured reserve and claimed linebacker Jason Phillips off waivers from Baltimore.
The injury occured during the third quarter of Sunday's 30-23 loss to Green Bay when Davis got his leg stuck in a pile of players. It's another huge blow to Carolina's defense, which lost fellow defensive captain Jon Beason for the year to a torn Achilles last week against Arizona.
"It's disappointing news," coach Ron Rivera said. "He trained so hard to come back off the situation and everything was coming together and he was playing really well. It was just like Jon (Beason) last week where he was looking good and playing well and then something like this happens. We'll go forward and see how things unfold."
Davis broke the news on his Twitter account.
“I would like 2 take the time and thank every1 that has supported me over my career,” Davis wrote on Twitter. “Unfortunately, I have re torn my acl. Thx 4 da prayers!!”
The question now is what will become of Davis in Carolina.
The Panthers gave him a five-year, $35.5 million contract extension in July, but only $8 million of that money was guaranteed -- a $7 million signing bonus and $1 million base salary in 2011 -- which protected the Panthers in case of just such an injury. Davis is due an $8 million signing bonus on the third day of the league year in 2012, but if the Panthers cut him before then they won't have to pay any of the remaining $27.5 million left on the contract.
Davis wrote on Twitter that he "loves the game too much to walk away," so every indication is he'll try to make it back yet again.
It's hard to imagine the Panthers giving him the $8 million bonus next year, so it's possible Davis could agree to restructure the deal and take less money at a later date. Or, he could wait to see if the Panthers cut him and try his luck with another team.
Regardless of what happens, Davis has yet another long road of rehab ahead of him.
"If there's one guy who can make it back from three torn ACLs it's Thomas," said teammate Jordan Gross.
Davis first tore his right ACL on Nov. 8, 2009 in a game against the New Orleans Saints and missed the final eight games. He tried to make it back for the next season but re-tore his ACL in the June OTAs. Davis had more than a year to recover from that second surgery and the Panthers felt like he'd be ready to go this season. Like Beason, he was one of several core players to cash in on a new contract.
Omar Gaither took Davis' place on Sunday after he went down in the third quarter, but Rivera wouldn't say who'll start this week at weak side linebacker against Jacksonville. Along with Gaither, the Panthers have other options in Jason Williams, Thomas Williams and Jordan Senn.
"Somebody is going to have to step up, one of those four guys," Rivera said. "This may be a situation where it may be by committee."
"T.D. is a tremendous leader on this football, both physical and vocal," said linebacker Thomas Williams. "He makes plays. Just like Jon Beason, he's part of the backbone of this football team on the defensive side of the ball. But we'll continue to grow and the next man has to step up."
"Three on the same ligament is just terrible luck," Gross said. "He's a guy who works so hard and has been on the straight and narrow, on and off the field. A team leader and team captain. It's just bad."
Phillips joins the Panthers after playing in nine games last season with the Ravens.
THE RIGHT CALL: The Panthers were flagged for illegal shifts on back-to-back plays on Sunday, one of them nullifying a touchdown pass to Greg Olsen.
At the time, coach Ron Rivera met with officials to talk about the calls but after watching the film realized the officials were right on.
“I watched it on tape today and I agree with the (officials) 100 percent -- they were correct,” Rivera said. “We started our motion man before our line got set. It’s a matter of timing. Get up to the line and get set and then start the motion. They were both good calls.”
Rivera said it’s a matter of everyone “hustling up and getting set and going as a unit more than anything else.”
BELL PRAISED FOR EFFORT: Rivera said he was “excited” for rookie RT Byron Bell, who played well in his first NFL start in place of Jeff Otah on Sunday.
“He’s a young man who has gone through a lot who really had an opportunity and took advantage of it,” Rivera said. “I thought he played good and held his own. I thought he had his moments where he got to rough up the Pro Bowler (Clay Matthews) and I think the Pro Bowler took advantage of him a couple of times too.
“But he’s a young man who’s growing and he kind of epitomizes this football team and this is we’re going to get better and better as we go.”
As for Otah, he had what Rivera called a “good day” on Monday and is back riding a bike and lifting. However, it’s unclear at this point if he’ll be ready or not for Jacksonville this Sunday.
SMITH MAKING PLAYS: At 32, Steve Smith is off to the fastest start of his NFL career with an NFL-leading 334 receiving yards through two games.
“It just talks about what kind of athlete he is more so than anything else,” Rivera said of Smith. “I think age right now with a guy like him really isn’t a factor. Maybe in a couple more years it will be a factor. But for right now he’s doing exactly what we want and making plays for us.”
As for Smith’s fumble, Rivera said he doesn’t hold anything against him, knowing he was trying to make a play.
“I know he’s disappointed in the fumble and I’m disappointed in the fumble,” Rivera said. “We had gotten into positive territory and we’re moving. It happens. I would love for him to keep it tucked but he was trying to get it to the other hand and stiff arm so he could pick up as many yards as he could. Unfortunately something bad happened. But you never fault a guy for playing hard.”
BY THE NUMBERS: The Panthers have held the lead at halftime in both games this season, but have been outscored 44-17 in the second half.
NO LINEUP CHANGES: Despite some breakdowns in the secondary and the improved play of wide receiver Brandon LaFell over the past couple of weeks, Rivera said he doesn’t plan to make any lineup changes.
That likely means Jordan Pugh, who has given up long touchdown passes in consecutive weeks, will still be the first man off the bench when the Panthers go a nickel defense.
The Panthers have allowed touchdown passes of 84, 70, 55 and 49 yards this season.
Rivera said although it’s glaring when the secondary gets beat it’s not always their fault, adding that, “when it’s a deep throw the quarterback is getting too much time, too.”