CHARLOTTE – Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning may be the most talked about comeback player of the year, but Panthers head coach Ron Rivera believes linebacker
"Without a doubt in my mind," Rivera said. "Thomas, for what he's gone through -- and I know what Peyton has gone through -- those two should be right there at the top. Both of those guys mean a tremendous amount to their teams.
"Obviously, Peyton playing the quarterback position might get a little more notoriety. Thomas Davis most certainly does deserve it. I can't be more proud of a football player than Thomas for what he has done."
Davis has overcome three torn anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee over the last three years. He played in seven games in 2009, none in 2010 and just two in 2011.
But in 2012, Davis has returned to his playmaking form as Carolina's starting weakside linebacker. The team captain has missed only one game and has recorded 39 tackles.
"He's been (out) for three years and he's come back and really helped us," cornerback
Added Rivera: "(Thomas) has always had the desire, always had the want to, and he's got tremendous athletic ability. He's got some football savvy and natural feel for the game. I'm just happy and glad that he's having an opportunity and he's taken advantage of it."
As a rookie in 2010, Gettis averaged 17.7 yards on nine kickoff returns with a long of 28.
Pilares injured his right shoulder during a return at Washington last week, and head coach Ron Rivera said he will undergo surgery in the near future to repair a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum.
On punt returns, Rivera said Munnerlyn – who's performed that role for the last five games – and wide receiver
PREPPING FOR PEYTON: Part of what makes Manning so effective is his pre-snap awareness. He's become known for his constant audibles and checks at the line of scrimmage prior to seemingly every snap.
To prepare for Manning's pre-snap adjustments, Panthers defensive assistant Bobby Babich worked with quarterbacks
"They tried to mimic, not knowing really what (Manning) is saying or doing," Rivera said. "It's almost comical to hear some of the things that the guys are saying. It's as good a simulation as I guess you are going to get."
"You have to think that Peyton's got some calls in there that don't mean anything. You have to play the game with him a little bit," Kuechly said. "But he's so smart, he knows what he's doing. When you think Peyton, you think of all the checks and different things he does at the line. It'll be a good challenge."
"Charles came up lame; he thinks he caught an elbow on the hip. It's been bothering him for the last couple days," Rivera said. "He actually felt better today but we thought, ‘Well, might as well give him a break too.'"