CHARLOTTE - If there's a silver lining to the cloud that has seemed to hang over Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis since he suffered his first of two serious knee injuries, it's that he's had more time to devote to others.
"It's been something that's been extremely difficult for me, but I've been able to take that and use it in different areas," said Davis, who recently was named the Carolina Panthers Man of the Year. "Me not being able to play football, I've been doing a lot of work in the community and have spent a lot of time with my kids, which they've been loving."
Davis has cherished the extra time with his family and for his Defending Dreams Foundation, but he can't wait for the chance to be a little selfish with his time.
"I've been out of football for a year-and-a-half," Davis said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Davis last played in a game on Nov. 8, 2009, at the New Orleans Saints, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The injury that sidelined him for the second half of the season.
He was well on his way to a complete recovery when, on June 8, 2010, Davis suffered the same injury during a summer school workout. He held out hope of returning late in the 2010 season, but all parties involved thought better of it.
Now Davis believes he'll be better for it.
"I'm doing fine. I'm in a position now where I'm just trying to make sure my knee is as strong as it possibly can be, and I think we've been able to accomplish that," Davis said. "Once we get out there, I'm going to start out with a brace on just to make sure everything is structurally sound, and from then on I'm just going to continue my career.
"I think I've had so much time to rehab and prepare that I'm not even going to think about (the injury) once I'm out there."
Davis said he's looking forward to playing for head coach Ron Rivera, who was a linebacker on some stout Chicago Bears defenses in the mid-1980s. With Davis' rehab schedule keeping him at Bank of America Stadium more than most of his teammates, he's had plenty of time to get to know the Panthers' new coach.
"He's going to be a very intense guy, a guy who is going to demand a lot from his players – especially on the defensive side of the ball because he's been around defenses for so long," Davis said. "I think he's going to make us extremely, extremely good on defense. I'm really looking forward to that."
Davis, of course, is looking forward to playing period after having to sit and watch the struggling season that the Panthers just endured.
"It was extremely difficult for me that I couldn't play and that we were losing. It's never a good feeling to lose," Davis said. "I would have felt better if we would have been able to come away with some of those victories, but you live and you learn.
"We have to use last season as a stepping stone to get better this year."