SPARTANBURG, S.C. – It's the same knee, injured in the same situation, resulting in the same dire diagnosis.
Yet somehow, with a smile on his face and hope in his heart, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is determined to will his way to a different outcome.
"I have a very positive attitude toward the whole situation, just hoping that at some point during the season I could possibly try to make it back," said Davis, in the early stages of rehab following his second major knee injury in a seven-month span. "I feel like I'm a lot further along at seven weeks than I was with the first surgery."
On June 8, already well on his way to fully recovering from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that he suffered halfway through the 2009 season, Davis sustained the same injury while participating in a drill during Panthers summer school.
In both cases – the New Orleans game on Nov. 8 and the reoccurrence – Davis suffered the injury while backpedaling in a non-contact situation.
"Same knee, same motion – pushing off on the right side, going to the left – same situation," he said. "It was just one of those freak things. Normally when guys tear their ACL, it's a lot harder to tear it again, but I just ended up in that situation."
With even an optimistic estimate for recovery of six months, Davis wouldn't be able to play until the final four games of the regular season, so the Panthers easily could have put him on injured reserve and gain a roster spot for training camp.
The organization decided to wait, however, placing Davis on the active Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which makes him eligible to go on the reserve PUP list once the regular season starts.
At that point, he wouldn't count against the 53-man roster, though he wouldn't be eligible to play for the first six weeks of the season. Then, in Weeks 7-9, Davis would be able to practice with the team, and somewhere in that window, the Panthers would have to decide whether to add him to the active roster or shut him down for the season.
"I'm going to try to maximize the time that the PUP will allow, and we'll just go from there. Hopefully, it can be before then, but I definitely want to maximize that time and hope for the best," Davis said. "It's too early to say, but I always like to keep my confidence level up."
Davis said that his recent experience with rehabbing the injury "is the kind of experience that you don't want," but it has helped him get off to a faster start this time around.
Among the countless things he does daily – from push-ups to sit-ups, from ice baths to hot tubs – Davis brought his bike to training camp and begins each day with a five-mile ride up and down Church Street beginning in front of the Wofford campus.
"It's pretty early. There aren't really that many people up," Davis said of what has become his 6:30 a.m. routine. "I ride around Spartanburg, going down about two-and-a-half miles and then back two-and-a-half miles.
"I always pass Krispy Kreme. I'm not messing with Krispy Kreme though; I'm trying to keep my body where it needs to be."
Davis isn't doing it alone. He credits the Panthers' athletic trainers for playing a pivotal role in his efforts, and he has an extensive support network, headed by his wife of two-and-a-half-years, Kelly.
"The person that has helped me get through it more so than anybody has got to be my wife," Davis said. "She's been there for me from Day One, with both surgeries.
"When I was on crutches and couldn't walk and needed somebody to take care of me, she was there for me."
Even with all the support and his unrivaled access to tools designed to speed his recovery, no one would have questioned Davis if he had decided not to push it the second time around.
That, however, simply isn't Davis' nature. Instead of waiting until 2011, Davis can't wait until the day he's back in the huddle.
"I'm in great spirits," he said. "I'm excited about where I am right now."